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News Maryland Baltimore County Catonsville

Westminster resident anticipates return to page duty in Annapolis

Recent issues such as gun control, the death penalty and transportation haven't just spurred voter interest in what's going in Annapolis during this year's General Assembly.

The activity has also added to Julianna Shearer's eagerness to return to the state capital in two weeks.

Shearer, a Westminster resident, is one of 105 Maryland high school seniors chosen to participate in the Maryland General Assembly's Student Page Program.

After her first week of service Jan. 21- 25, the 17-year-old is looking forward to her second week of service, March 11-15.

"I'm more excited for this week rather than nervous, because I've already been through it all," Shearer said of her growing anticipation. "Plus, it'll be more busy and more things will be happening so it will be a lot more exciting."

Though she may be better known for her talent on the lacrosse field, Shearer wanted to try her hand at something different this spring — politics.

"I really just wanted to experience the whole experience there," said the senior at Mount de Sales Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Baltimore County.

The page program, which started in 1970 after a successful trial run at the 1969 constitutional convention, gives Maryland high school seniors an opportunity to experience government at the state level.

Students are assigned to either the House of Delegates or to the Senate, and spend two non-consecutive weeks working and living in Annapolis.

According to page coordinator Jane Hudiburg, each county in Maryland is allotted a certain number of the 105 available positions, and each county has a different application process.

Baltimore County is allowed 14 pages and Shearer was chosen for one of those slots after submitting a written essay explaining her interest in politics and why she wanted to be part of the program.

Shearer said she was hesitant to apply for the program at first.

"I'm glad that I applied because, at first I wasn't going to, but then I decided that, I mean, what can go wrong? It was just, I don't know. It was really awesome seeing legislation kind of in action," she said. "It was really cool."

"It was definitely a great learning experience and I really enjoyed doing it," Shearer said of her experience in late January.

Asked what her duties were during her first week as a page, Shearer responded, "Make coffee. Lots and lots of coffee."

Besides making coffee, pages answer questions, deliver paperwork and create bill books for legislators over the course of their service.

Shearer even had a chance to eat lunch with several state senators, including Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican who represents Howard and Carroll counties.

And it was more than just a friendly meal.

"They asked us our opinion on the death penalty and gun control and stuff like that," Shearer said."Because they were really torn about that, so they wanted to get our opinions about that.

"It was really cool that they cared," she added.

She pointed out that because everyone was so nervous the first few days of her first week, she is looking forward to the confidence she will have during her second.

Hudiburg confirmed that the second week of duty will be quite a different experience for the students.

"The first week of session, the sessions are very short," Hudiburg said. "So it's mostly a training week where they are learning the duties."

"It's really the second week they come in that I really get to know them as an individual because those sessions go on hours long," she said.

Shearer said everything she learned and experienced during that first week fueled her interest in politics in addition to giving her confidence for her return.

"It definitely gave me an attraction to it," Shearer said of the political world. "I didn't really know how it all worked, and I got there and all the stuff I learned in AP (Advanced Placement) Gov(ernment) just kind of clicked."

Her only disappointment from her first week in Annapolis was not getting to meet Gov. Martin O'Malley.

"I tried so hard to run into him," Shearer said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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