For the 45 days of General Assembly Session this winter, 7th grader Nicholas Leggett will wake up in the Omni Hotel in downtown Richmond rather than his home in North Chesterfield. Along with approximately forty other 13 and 14 year olds from across the Commonwealth, Nicholas has the high privilege of serving as a page in Virginia’s House of Delegates for the 2015 Session. From their hotel rooms, suit jackets, ties and pressed slacks donned, breakfast eaten, the students travel to the General Assembly Building at 9th and Main.
By 8:30, the daily meeting of this year’s House pages has opened. Duty schedules are distributed, students are ready to respond to the office and committee needs of the Delegates, and homework is underway. After a quick lunch around 11, the pages find their afternoon assignments – some on the floor of the House chamber, several at the doors to the Gallery, more at the closed access doors to the floor of the House and still others stationed in helpful locations around the room. For the next several hours, the pages will run errands, deliver lunches, dispatch messages and an assortment of other helpful tasks for the 100 members of the House of Delegates. (Photo: Nicholas (center right) serves on the floor during Session, 2/2/15)
Wrapping up before 5 PM, students then head to dinner. A small break leads straight into one of the most challenging times of the long day – self-directed school work. Pages are required to keep up with their school work, not dipping below A’s and B’s, despite missing classroom time for nearly two months. For Nicholas, this means getting notes from a diligent classmate and packets of work passed back and forth from Mrs. Daly through his older sister, Megan. Pages do their work together in a monitored study hall in the Omni. At nine o’clock, students head back to their rooms for a few moments of precious down time before bed. The weekends allow a bit more freedom, and a chance to catch up on laundry, as students spend time with their families.
The Page Program has high expectations for the young men and women accepted to serve. By week two, pages are expected to have memorized the names, seat locations and districts of all 100 Delegates. They must sit quite still, patiently waiting to be called upon, through lengthy committee meetings and speeches on the floor. They must be polite and respectful to Delegates, staff, visitors and their peers, and diligent and self-directed in their studies. They live away from their families, and are separated from teachers and classmates for 6 – 8 weeks at a time.
When asked if all the work and sacrifice has been worth it, Nicholas gave an unequivocal YES. He’s learned to love the legislative process, and the structures and decorum of the Assembly. He’s grown in his appreciation for the complexity of governance, and the brilliance of our founding fathers. He envisions pursuing election himself in the future – perhaps even at the federal level.
Looking ahead, Nicholas is excited about dinner for the pages with Governor McAuliffe at the Executive Mansion, seeing his classmates again when 7th grade tours the State Capitol February 25 and especially to recommending the Page Program to other students at Veritas. We are so thankful for this extraordinary opportunity for Nicholas to serve our Commonwealth – and look forward to the continued fruit of this experience in his life!
Want to learn more about the Page Program, or follow the General Assembly at work this session? The Virginia General Assembly website is an excellent resource, providing live streaming coverage; citizens are also encouraged to witness daily sessions from the galleries in each chamber. Click here to learn more!
“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.”
~ Thomas Jefferson