High school students from around Iowa are at the statehouse this week, interviewing for jobs as "pages" in the 2009 legislative session. "Pages" work for an hourly wage in the Iowa House and Senate. A handful get to work for top state officials like the governor and legislative leaders. Mike Marshall, the secretary of senate, says it’s a great crash course for a student who’s interested in politics.
"They’re given a front-row seat to observe the process," Marshall says. "It gives them a much richer learning experience than just reading about these kinds of things in a textbook." Most of the high school seniors who are hired to be pages at the statehouse have finished their courses a semester early and are free to spend their spring semester in Des Moines.
"What we’re getting are kids who are very mature, who’ve done very well in school, who’ve been very active in their community," Marshall says, "and the reality is they’re only six months away from going off to college on their own, so this is really a transition from high school to college for them." The students are encouraged to live with relatives or adult friends in the Des Moines area, but some choose to room in apartments with other pages. Marshall says there is a code of conduct for pages.
"The application itself says that if they are caught with drugs or alcohol, they could be removed from the program," Marshall says. "They could be sent home." The high schoolers who work as pages in the House and Senate spend their days distributing papers and delivering messages to lawmakers.
They also spend a considerable amount of time running to the cafeteria or vending machine for legislators who don’t want to make the trip to the basement of the statehouse for their own snack. About 40 high school students are hired to be pages each year.