Three 17-year-old high school seniors recently were selected to represent Carroll County as student pages at the Maryland State House during the 2023 legislative session.
The session will convene in Annapolis Jan. 11 and end April 10.
Paige LaCorte and Erin Zirkle, students at South Carroll High School who live in Mount Airy, and Sameer Nasir of Finksburg, a student at the Gerstell Academy in Finksburg, will be immersed in legislative action for two weeks total — one week during the first seven weeks of the session and one week during the final six weeks.
Student pages are returning in person to Annapolis this year after the program was held online only in 2021 and 2022.
State Sen. Justin Ready, a Republican who represents Carroll County, said the pages perform tasks to support lawmakers and also garner all the benefits of being in the room where arguments are presented and decisions are made.
“They get to see how you debate and discuss issues,” Ready said, “and they really get to see how you argue something, how you sometimes come to compromise and come to understand an issue better, and they can kind of see that there’s no one sure side of the story.”
The student page program began in 1970 and is designed to teach high school seniors about the legislative process. Each year, 105 pages and 36 alternates are selected from across the state to represent their schools and counties in Annapolis. Carroll County’s page coordinator, Ryan Melhorn, said the unique experience is worth missing two weeks of school.
LaCorte, a member of South Carroll’s mock trial team, said she hopes to learn some debate skills during the session and gain leadership experience.
“It’s super cool that I can talk to people who have different perspectives and see a lot of different points of view,” LaCorte said. “I think that would be really cool to come back being able to understand people from a different perspective.”
After high school LaCorte plans to study law and become an attorney.
Zirkle said she hopes experiences gained during the page program will allow her to improve the South Carroll High community. She plans to study biocomputational engineering or biomedical engineering in college.
Nasir said he hopes to learn more about how laws work during the page program, to develop skills for a future career in finance.
“I’d like to learn a little bit more about what our government does,” Nasir said. “I like to impact my community positively and I feel like going through this program and understanding kind of like the trials and tribulations of how I could do that would be beneficial.”
Although Carroll County can send up to four high school seniors to participate in the page program, Melhorn said interest waned amid the pandemic, making it difficult to recruit students this year.
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Zirkle said she plans to talk to other students about her experience in the program in hopes of increasing interest next year. Zirkle found out about the program through South Carroll’s internship coordinator and was especially interested because her older brother, Andrew Zirkle, 22, was a page during his senior year.
In Carroll County, students must write a one-page paper about what they plan to learn from the experience as part of their application. Pages receive a stipend of $55 per day to help defray lodging and food expenses.
Zirkle and LaCorte both said they plan to take advantage of student housing for pages rather than commute. The cost of lodging at a home near the State House is $25 per night through the page program.
Duties of the page revolve around the schedule of the chamber to which the student is assigned. Whenever the assigned chamber is in session, pages must be present to distribute materials to members, assist visitors, deliver messages, run errands and keep the members’ bill books up to date. Pages do not work in delegates’ or senators’ offices.
Ready said lawmakers can gain a valuable perspective from student pages just as pages learn from lawmakers.
“It’s always fun to hear their perspectives because we can be in a bubble in Annapolis,” Ready said.