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South Carroll High students selected as pages to state legislature

Taylor Bowen, left, and Maggie Buckley, both South Carroll High School seniors, were selected as two of four in the county to serve as student pages for the state legislature this year. The girls will travel to Annapolis to work two weeks in the upcoming session come January.
Taylor Bowen, left, and Maggie Buckley, both South Carroll High School seniors, were selected as two of four in the county to serve as student pages for the state legislature this year. The girls will travel to Annapolis to work two weeks in the upcoming session come January. (Photo by Jeremy Bauer-Wolf , Carroll County Times)

Few high school students can boast they are legitimately allowed to skip two weeks of school, but for Maggie Buckley and Taylor Bowen, both 17, those weeks mean a lot more responsibility.
Maggie and Taylor, South Carroll High School seniors, were selected to serve as student pages during the 2014 session beginning in January.
The girls will take two non-consecutive weeks off school during the regular session and travel to Annapolis to assist state senators and delegates in whatever task assigned to them - everything from coffee runs to maintaining the senators' and delegates' bill books.
They will work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday for the week, with breaks for meals, attending committee meetings and assisting representatives on the floor.
"We get to be around a lot of cool people," Maggie said.
The page program has been a long-standing initiative between the Carroll County Public School system and the state, according to Jeff Alisauckas, the CCPS supervisor of curriculum and instructional resources for teacher and leadership development, who coordinates with the state. In fact, the program has existed in some form since 1970, according to state intern coordinator Peggy Schmeltzer.
Each year, CCPS reaches out during the first weeks of September to a faculty member designated as a point person in each of the eight county high schools and instructs them to advertise for the page program - either by word-of-mouth or flyers.
Interested candidates - who must be high school seniors - then fill out an essay application and return them to their respective teachers by the end of September. Alisauckas said the county typically sees between eight and 10 applications countywide, and that the point people in the high schools are responsible for judging those essays. The names on the essays are blacked out for fairness, Alisauckas said.
"[The pages] get to go into committees where the real action happens," Alisauckas said. "They hear the discussions - and the things happen in Annapolis -- not from on the news, but from the trenches, working with state leaders."
CCPS sends their final selections to the state, who notifies the four student pages, and one alternate, come October. Rachel Mann from North Carroll High School, and Nicolette Sartori from Francis Scott Key High School, in addition to Maggie and Taylor, will be serving as pages this year. Bhavneet Athwal from Manchester Valley High School was selected as the alternate.
The pages are expected to make up all missed school work for their two weeks of absence, in which they stay with an as-yet unassigned host family within walking distance of the State House.
Brad Widner is the chairman of the social studies department at South Carroll and the faculty member who collaborates with the CCPS on the program. Widner said he often tries to enlist students he feel would benefit as a page - both Maggie and Taylor were former students of his.
"Once [students] leave these doors they leave the real world," Widner said. "They're going to hit politics and I think they really need to know what's going on."
Maggie and Taylor, who are co-presidents of the South Carroll Young Republicans Club, said they intend to learn from their time on the senate floor and revitalize their club, which is composed of roughly 20 students. Widner is also the adviser to the Young Republicans and Young Democrats Club.
Particularly, they said they want to recruit local and state officials as guest speakers at some of their meetings - Maggie said Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, has expressed interest, and they also want to ask Sen. Joseph Getty, R-District 5, and the senate Minority Whip, to visit.
Taylor said she hopes to involve more of the student body in political discussions.
"A lot of people now don't really talk politics and they don't have any idea what's going on -- it's frustrating," Taylor said.
Maggie and Taylor, who have known each other since elementary school, said they both intend to major in international affairs when they enter college. Bowen said she would like to work as a public relations representative for a branch of the military, while Buckley said she would like to be a linguist, also for the military.
Meghan Humbert, an assistant principal at South Carroll, said students like Maggie and Taylor are a point of pride for their school.
"It's a tremendous amount of responsibility for them," Humbert said. "It's a chance for them feel important and actually be a part of the process."

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