Provided by Prince William County Schools (PWCS)
Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School student Annika Holder set out for Richmond in January on the adventure of a lifetime. She may have anticipated her life was about to change. However, she could not have known her experience would provide a new sense of purpose.
The Page Program
Last fall, Holder was chosen as one of 40 middle school students to participate in the 2020 Senate of Virginia Page Leadership Program. To be eligible, 13- or 14-year-old students submit online applications, letters of recommendation, a school endorsement, an essay, and a resume showing their extracurricular, academic, and civic activities. Holder was one of only two participants who received the Best Pages All Session Award.
Senate pages leave home the second week in January, when the legislative session opens. They live and work in Richmond during the week until session closes in March. Pages work an 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule Monday through Thursday. (They work half days on Fridays, allowing for travel home on weekends.)
Pages serve various assignments at the Capitol:
- assisting legislators delivering messages and packages,
- filling in for aides,
- pulling bills,
- helping staff committee meetings,
- answering phone calls,
- providing basic concierge services,
- and speaking to the public or visiting delegations about their experience and roles.
What She Learned
Holder said she usually stopped by her school on Friday afternoons to pick up homework and materials from teachers and see friends. She said she learned a lot, including the ins and outs of the legislative process She also learned the importance of tolerance and civility in the political environment, Holder said she most enjoyed the professional development opportunities, networking sessions with legislators and public officials, and the excitement of working on the Senate floor.
“This experience was an eye-opening one for me,” said Holder. “I [became aware of]the political climate of Virginia … [I learned about] the political, economic, and moral opinions of young people my age around the state. It left me with a new growth mindset and a new perspective on my future.”
Holder talked about how she spends her days in isolation. “Since I’ve been home from the page program, I realized how structured it was in comparison to school and home. My sense of punctuality and organization is much better after spending three months under constant observation. At home, I’ve been continuing to refine my artistic skills and practice my violin. I’ve begun a free online program to teach fifth graders pre-algebra and prepare them to take advanced classes in middle school. I have biweekly lessons, so that keeps me pretty busy on its own. I wanted to give back some of the educational experiences I got at the page program, and this is my way of doing it.”