Thursday May 24, 2018
Not every student has the opportunity to walk the halls of the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier. Middle schooler Hanna Gustafson does just that as part of her job being a legislative page, delivering messages for the members of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the various legislative offices. This unique experience to observe the workings of the legislature and witness firsthand the often-historic events in the state’s capital has left an impression on the young scholar. Gustafson reports, “It’s amazing to watch the subtle dynamics that go on when the Senate and House are meeting.”
Each year a small group of Vermont eighth graders are selected to work as legislative pages. A paid position, the student pages generally work Tuesday through Friday and serve for approximately six weeks. Hanna’s mother, Tricia Gustafson says, “There are different stations and the kids rotate so they experience all areas: House, Senate, Sergeant of Arms, Card Room. From these stations they deliver messages and run errands.”
Describing it as an “education of a lifetime,” Tricia Gustafson remarked that along with their regular duties, every page followed two bills and wrote a paper on each. She adds, “They get to know all the representatives, senators, doormen/doorwomen, some staff, and meet the governor and lieutenant governor.” Most importantly, Tricia Gustafson, notes, “The kids not only learn about politics and government, but they also face so many new experiences and growth in areas of time management, independence, problem solving, and professional relationships.”
Hanna Gustafson, who is homeschooled and attends Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School part time, concurs with her mother’s assessment, noting, “The page program is a lot of fun and a great opportunity. I would definitely recommend it to other students.”
Gustafson will attend South Burlington High School part time next year and looks forward to pursuing her interests in law and politics, a statement that is not uncommon for legislative pages. According to the state, “Many Vermont politicians, including members of the current legislature, got their start working as pages.” Hanna Gustafson adds, “I’m looking forward to keeping in touch and visiting the Statehouse throughout high school and the rest of my life.”
For more information about the legislative page program and how to apply, visit https://legislature.vermont.gov/the-state-house/civic-education/become-a-legislative-page/.