In 2003, I had the distinct honor of being a Messenger of Democracy or simply put, a Page. Today, this program has been shut down due to finances. It appears five million dollars for an education program is just too much for our government to fund.
In order to be considered for the Page position, I had to go through an extensive application process with my Congressman's office. At one point, I was juggling finals (since I was still a Junior in High School), volunteering at my Congressman's office, and completing the application. In the middle of May, I received a call letting me know that I had been chosen to be a House Page. I was also informed that I had maybe two weeks to prepare my move and arrange travel plans.
Nominated by Congressman Joe Knollenberg of Michigan, I traveled for the first time -- alone, and scared -- to Washington, DC. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that I would be working for the House of Representatives.
I was one out of around 70 people in my class. Together, we completed orientation - still at this point; I had no idea what I was going to be doing. Since it was a summer session, we did not have to attend school. Page classes attend school if their program runs during the school year. Finally, at the end of orientation, our supervisor said she was going to take us to the Capitol building where we would be spending most of our days working.
After walking around the hallways and through the rotunda, we were taken onto the House Floor. I took my first few steps onto the Floor and then looked up at the State Seals. Overcome with emotion, my heart immediately starting beating faster and faster. It was then, that I knew, I would never want to leave this city and I hadn't even started work yet. After sitting in the Members seats and given a speech about the importance of the Page Program, they told us we were going to the Speaker's Balcony aka the million-dollar view. Little did I know, 13 years and six days later, I'd be proposing to my wife on that very balcony.
When work started, I witnessed history in the making. We walked the same Floor as our lawmakers. Right in front of our eyes we learned how our legislative process worked. This rare and unique experience given to Pages cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Investing in this program again, would ensure and inspire more young people to become leaders in civic engagement.
As cliché as it sounds, being a Page changed my life. When it came to choosing a college to attend, I turned down my acceptance to The Citadel and chose to attend The Catholic University of America. My decision was directly influenced by my time as a Page. I wanted to be involved in Politics and Catholic University was in the city where it all happens, Washington, DC.
Throughout college, I worked, volunteered, and interned at non-profits, the White House, and even started my own organization that raised money and awareness for young adult cancer research. I believe none of that would have been achieved without the driving force from my experience as a Page. There's no other way to explain, I just wanted to be involved.
The U.S. Capitol Page Alumni Association has created a documentary, Democracy's Messengers, which explores the life of a Page, personal experiences and the mission of the program. This program needs to be reinstated so that other young people have the same opportunity I was given. Please consider donating, because young people across the country are missing out on an opportunity that could potentially benefit all citizens of this great nation of ours. Without the Page Program, I would not be the activist or person I am today.
For more information on how to support this documentary, please visit here.
Thank you to Margaret DeAngelis for helping with editing.