Catonsville High student sees politics from ground floor

About eight years ago, Reiter Boldt made a current events presentation to his Hillcrest Elementary School classmates.

When he came home, he was more shocked that his peers knew nothing about the topic than pleased with his talk, which was likely about an attack overseas.

"It's like they don't read the paper," Boldt's mother, Colette Pifer, recalled her son saying.

Pifer said she explained to her only child that most 10-year-olds don't keep up with the news.

Now 18 and a senior at Catonsville High School, Boldt continues to stay up to date on current events as he sifts through the apps on his Droid X smart phone, often consuming news from The New York Times, BBC and Washington Post with his breakfast in the morning.

"He doesn't just know the event happened," Pifer said. "He knows all the minutiae of the event. He's always been like that."

Boldt still is incredulous that many people seem to refuse to follow the news.

"Not that many people listen to public radio and I don't understand it. It's a great news source," Boldt said. "Stuff is going on in the world and you need to be aware of it."

For two weeks since the start of the New Year, Boldt didn't just follow the news, he spent time with the people making much of it as he served as a legislative page in Annapolis.

Boldt was among 105 students from throughout the state who were selected to serve as pages during the 430 Session of Maryland's General Assembly.

"It's quite fun," Boldt said Friday afternoon , his second to last day as a page. "You always read about it, but to actually see it in action is something different.

"I'd like to think it hasn't affected my views really, but it gives me an insight into what's going on," he said. "You kind of understand, 'Okay. This is why we have to compromise on these issues.'"

Boldt 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, to take part in the program, which began in 1970.

Candidates from the county's private, public and parochial schools submit anonymous essays for review by the Office of Secondary Social Studies, Shepard said and those essays form the basis for who will be chosen.

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.

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

Boldt said he had some butterflies the first week he served as a page, Feb. 6-10.

"You kind of hold (the legislators) up higher when you first come in because of the office, but they're just people and they're a lot of fun," Boldt said, noting he met a variety of legislators, including District 12A Dels. James Malone and Steve DeBoy, who represent Catonsville.

Staying at a bed and breakfast during his time in Annapolis, Boldt worked from 10 a.m. to almost 9 p.m. on Thursday as legislators rushed to complete their agendas before the 430th Session adjourns on April 9, Boldt said.

"It's definitely more intense," Boldt said, comparing the second week to his first. "I like this week a lot better. The first week, we had a lot of down time. We're here now and we're doing what we signed up to do."

Spending time in the legislative session could prepare Boldt, his school's student body president, for a possible career.

The self-described liberal foresees working in law, policy making or politics.

"I enjoy what I've seen and I enjoy learning about it, so I figure I might as well," Boldt said of potentially entering politics.

Boldt plans to major in political science and history when he goes to college in the fall.

He is still waiting to hear from his top choice colleges, Stanford University, the University of Chicago and George Washington University.

Jo-Ellen O'Dell, Boldt's Advance Placement English teacher last year, said she was not surprised to learn of her former student's participation in the page program.

She said a career in politics fits his personality.

"He's very mature and when you talk with Reiter, you really get a sense of his connection with larger issues in the world," said O'Dell, in her eighth year at the school. "I think he thinks about his life as something he can use to make the world a better place."

Boldt isn't afraid to hide his beliefs. The back of his car is adorned with bumper stickers supporting the Democratic Party and eating vegan.

Boldt grew up in a vegetarian household and 14 months ago made the transition to a vegan diet.

"I just feel that we have the earth and we might as well treat it nice and preserve what we have for future generations," Boldt said.

In addition to serving as co-president of the National Honor Society, Boldt is a member of Catonsville High's Envirothon team, which competes in a county-wide jeopardy-style competition.

Boldt, who will vote for the first time in November, added that he's eager to display the Obama 2012 sticker he has ordered.

"It's fun to make a statement sometimes," he said. "And why not? You can tell which car's yours a lot easier."

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