Six high school seniors are serving as student pages for the 2017 session of the Maryland General Assembly, which began Wednesday..
Pages include Matthew Siebold and Hector Belarmino of Bel Air High School; Charles Musante and Ryan Lepp of C. Milton Wright High School; Amanda Dorsey of Edgewood High School; and Abigail Corona of Fallston High School.
Pages were hand-selected following a grueling application process that included a written test and an extensive oral interview before a 12-person committee, consisting of peers and educators from around the county, who tested the applicants on their knowledge of politics and other various topics. Based on a published rubric, the five highest scorers have the honor of being pages in Annapolis; the sixth highest score on the rubric is the alternate who will replace anyone who cannot serve because of illness.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime, behind-the-scenes experience for prospective law, government and policy students to experience first-hand the inner workings of state government and politics," J. Patrick Whitehurst, coordinator of the student page program in Harford County and Fallston High School government teacher, said.
A Student Page Breakfast was held Dec. 8 at Patterson Mill High School, and the new pages spent the morning getting to know each other and the elected officials they will assist during the session. They were afforded the opportunity to ask questions and exchange contact information. The pages' parents, as well as school and elected officials, were invited to the breakfast, hosted by the Patterson Mill's Foods and Hospitality Management students.
"We are a diverse team that goes to Annapolis to represent you and do the work of the people. We don't take this job for granted. Now you will have a backstage pass and an inside look at citizenship. This is a golden opportunity, and I hope it does for you what it did for me. I hope these two weeks sparks your desire for public service," keynote speaker and former student page Del. Mary Ann Lisanti told the pages.
Harford Del. Rick Impallaria stressed to the pages how unique the experience will be as they witness elected officials from different experiences and areas all working together for the greater good.
"We are looking forward to working with each of you, so please stop by our offices," he said.
In addition to Lisante and Impallaria, other elected officials in attendance were Sens. Wayne Norman and Robert Cassilly and Dels. Susan McComas, Kathy Szeliga, Teresa Reilly and Andrew Cassilly.
Board of Education of Harford County Vice President Joseph Vohskul and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment Susan Brown brought greetings from the school system.
Brown commended the pages for having been selected following the intense application process.
"We are so proud of this accomplished group of students who were selected to serve as student pages in Annapolis this year. The student page program is an incredible opportunity for the students to interact with elected officials and see first-hand how the Maryland Legislature works. We know they will be great representatives for the school system," Brown said.
Matthew Siebold, 17, is captain of the varsity swimming team and the academic team and serves as a member of the Student Government Association. He has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Charles Musante, 18, is on his school's swimming team and is a member of the Theatre Club. Outside of school, he coaches Arena Club Aquatics summer swimming. Musante plans to major in political science post high school graduation.
Ryan Lepp, 17, is captain of the boys volleyball team and is also on the basketball and lacrosse teams. He is a member of the National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society, Science National Honor Society, German National Honor Society, Senior Class Council, Robotics Club and Stand Up for Autism Comedy Show. Outside of school, he volunteers at his grandfather's retirement home and his church and worked during the summer at Fountain Green Swim Club. He plans to attend the U.S. Military Academy West Point in the fall.
Amanda Dorsey, 17, is in the International Baccalaureate Program and is the student member on Harford County Board of Education. She also serves as Student Government President, Senior Class President and Student Training Coordinator for the Maryland Association of Student Councils. She is former president of the Harford County Regional Association of Student Councils. In addition, she is founder of the Leadership Development Program at Deerfield Elementary School. Dorsey plans to major in neuroscience and minor in political science in her post high school studies.
Abigail Corona, 17, is co-editor in chief of her school's student newspaper, president of the National English Honor Society, member of the National Honor Society and editor of the literary magazine, Troubadour. She plans to attend American University in the fall.
Hector Belarmino, 17, is a member of the Drama Company, founder of his school's Human Rights Club, treasurer of the Anime Club, a member of the National Honor Society and treasurer of the French Honor Society. Outside of his school commitments, he works as a dishwasher at Pairings Bistro. He hopes to attend Syracuse University or University of Maryland College Park.
The pages will serve in the 2017 legislative session that began this month and continues through April. They will spend two, non-consecutive weeks with host families in Annapolis while serving in either the House of Delegates or the Maryland Senate. The pages are paid a stipend to cover their living expenses.
The statewide Student Page Program in Annapolis has been ongoing for about 35 years. Every high school in the county is urged to participate in the program, and each school has an equal chance of having its candidate(s) score in the top five to become a page in Annapolis.