Lansdowne student gets taste of state government

Robert Holmes Jr. knows what he's doing when it comes to academics at Lansdowne High School.

The Wynnewood resident is straight-A student in the school's Academy of Finance magnet program, a member of the National Honor Society as well as National Arts Honor Society.

In the fall, he will attend Nova Southeastern University in Florida on scholarship.

He is considering a career as either a plastic or orthopedic surgeon.

But when it came to politics, especially in Maryland, Holmes admitted he didn't know much.

To expand his education, he applied to become one of 105 students from throughout the state selected to serve as a page for two nonconsecutive weeks in the Maryland's House of Delegates and Senate.

"I've always had an interest in government, too," he said. "I just have a weird, I guess, range of interests."

Last week, Holmes finished up the second of his two weeks of service in Annapolis.

His first week began Jan. 10, the first days of the 430th legislative session, and there wasn't much to do, he said.

Last week was much more active.

"There's so many more bills being passed. They're actually voting, so we get to see some debates going on," Holmes said. "I definitely like to be active. I hate sitting there waiting for things to happen."

In his two weeks in Annapolis, Holmes met with state Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who represents District 12, and Dels. James Malone and Steve DeBoy, who represent District 12A.

District 12 includes parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. District 12A is a subsection of District 12 that includes Arbutus in southwest Baltimore County.

"He's a very sharp young man. He did a fabulous job," said Malone, who played football with Holmes' father, Robert, at Cardinal Gibbons High School. "He's a great kid. It's just another positive accolade coming out of Lansdowne High School."

Holmes was chosen to be one of 14 pages selected to represent Baltimore County, according to Rex Shepard, coordinator of the Office of Secondary Social Studies of Baltimore County Public Schools.

Each county sends a certain number of pages, based on its population.

Shepard noted that his office also sends information about the page program to the county's private and parochial schools.

Each school may select a candidate to write an essay which remains anonymous as the Office of Secondary Social Studies reviews it, Shepard said

The page program began in 1970. The primary duty of a page is to run errands for representatives when they can't leave their seats during the session, according to Jane Hudiburg, the page coordinator for the General Assembly.

The tasks range from bringing the representative a cup of coffee to digging up the history of a bill at the information desk, she said.

Holmes said his lack of familiarity with the political process quickly changed during his time in Annapolis.

"I didn't want to be the one person who didn't know what was going on," he said of the jitters he had as he started his first week in January. "They've been really nice and teaching me stuff. That's the one thing I went for, to learn."

The timing of the program couldn't be better for Holmes, who turns 18 in April. He said he is eager to take advantage of his chance to vote for the first time in the upcoming elections.

His father marveled at his son's ability to make academics look easy throughout high school when it was anything but that.

In 2004, the younger Holmes learned that his mother, Susan, had colon cancer. In 2010, she died.

"Not only did he accomplish what he accomplished, but he did so while his mother was fighting for her life," the elder Holmes said. "Robbie's a very determined, self-motivated young man."

The elder Holmes noted that when his son graduates from college, he will be the first member of the Holmes family that he knows of to receive a college degree.

Asked how he persevered while his mother was sick, the younger Holmes said

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