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Six Harford County students head to Annapolis

Six high school seniors are serving as student pages for the 2013 Maryland General Assembly.

Emma Zyriek of C. Milton Wright High School, Alexander McArtor of Fallston High School, Emily Clarke and Bryan Doherty of The John Carroll School, Andrew Becker of North Harford High School and Marc Szczepaniak of Patterson Mill High School began their work in Annapolis last week, when the Maryland General Assembly kicked off this year's session.

They will spend two, non-consecutive weeks with host families in Annapolis while serving in either the House of Delegates or the Maryland Senate. They will perform various tasks such as filing, running errands and sitting in on meetings and hearings. Although they will be absent from school for a total of two weeks, pages are still expected to make-up any work they miss while attending the session.

The pages were hand-selected following an arduous application process that included a written test and an extensive oral interview before a 12-person committee, consisting of students and educators from around the county, who tested the applicants on their knowledge of politics and other various topics.

Before going to Annapolis, the pages attended a breakfast Dec. 6 at Aberdeen High School and spent the morning getting to know each other and the elected officials they are assisting during the session. They were afforded the opportunity to ask questions as well.

D.J. Sigworth, deputy regional field director for President Obama's re-election campaign in central Ohio, a student page himself in 2009, shared his insight about the experience of serving as a page. As the keynote speaker, Sigworth reminded the pages of the responsibility that comes with this honor and encouraged them to take advantage of every opportunity to be involved during their time in Annapolis and to find out what motivated and inspired the legislators to enter politics and to find out what others' passions are.

Del. Richard Impallaria, chair of the Harford delegation, also addressed the group, which consisted of the pages and their parents, as well as school and elected officials. He welcomed those in attendance and encouraged the pages: "Your time in Annapolis will be very exciting. You will meet people from all over the state and make fantastic friends. Stop by our offices and see each of us."

In addition to Impallaria, other elected officials in attendance were Dels. Kathy Szeliga, Wayne Norman and Susan McComas and Sens. Barry Glassman and J. B. Jennings.

J. Patrick Whitehurst, coordinator of the student page program in Harford County and Fallston High government teacher, detailed the competitive selection process pages endured. In addition, Superintendent Robert M. Tomback and Harford County Board of Education member Robert Frisch brought greetings.

"You have an extraordinary opportunity to see in practice how our government really works," Tomback said. "You will be on the floor, working behind the scenes, experiencing things several layers beneath what the average public sees."

"It is truly an honor to be selected as a Page, and you have something to offer – your desire to serve the public," said Mr. Frisch. "If this experience does not lead you to a political career, it will at least lead you to a career of public service."

Emma Zyriek, 17, is youth awareness co-chair at Maryland Youth Advisory Council; head organizer of C. Milton Wright High's first Bullying Awareness Day; and CEO and founder of Real Girls Initiative, a non-profit organization that strives to change the perception of females in the media; and she is involved in her school's Student Government Association, Mock Trial and other various political/social activism campaigns. Emma is undecided about her college plans; however, her first choice is Furman University.

Alex McArtor, 17, is the vice president of his school's Student Government Association, student leader at Way of Life Community Church and captain of the Academic Team. He is also involved in the Youth and Government Program and Boy Scouts of America. Alex plans to attend Harford Community College for two years and then transfer to University of Maryland, College Park.

Emily Clarke, 17, is involved in her school's newspaper, the literary art magazine, the track team, Looney's lacrosse, the Student Affairs Council, Spirit Club, National Honor Society, National French Honor Society and Quill and Scroll. In addition to her academic, extracurricular and sports commitments, she works as a barista at Coffee Coffee. Emily plans to attend Clemson University or College of Charleston in the fall.

Bryan Doherty, 17, is the secretary/treasurer of his school's Student Government Association and is the founder of the Sailing Club. He is also a member of the National Honor Society, Student Journalism Club, the lacrosse team and Boy Scout Troop 355. Bryan has applied to Princeton University, George Washington University, Washington and Lee University and University of Richmond.

Andrew Becker, 17, is class president and a member of the Speech and Debate Team and Mock Trial. He plans to attend University of Virginia in the fall.

Marc Szczepaniak, 17, is the editor of Patterson Press, secretary of the Harford County Young Democrats and a member of the Speech and Debate Team. In the fall, he hopes to attend University of Maryland, College Park or George Washington University.

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