Rep. Peter Abbarno: House page program opens opportunities for local students
For the first time since 2020, the Washington State Legislature is back, in-person, conducting meetings and floor sessions on the Capitol campus. And with this return to normalcy, we’ve been able to resume a tradition even older than statehood itself: The legislative page program.
Since territorial days, legislative pages have made sure our lawmaking branch of government runs smoothly. And while page duties no longer include tending horses or cleaning laundry, every young person who serves as a page in Olympia puts in an honest 40-hour work week. Today, pages serve legislators on the chamber floor, make deliveries throughout campus, support member offices, and attend Page School.
Page School supplements the hands-on learning experience with a classroom component geared toward understanding the legislative process. It’s an opportunity for students to learn about our system of government, immerse themselves in legislative vocabulary, and study how a bill becomes a law. It’s also where students are taught the importance of civility (something we could all use), how to debate, and how a committee functions. It really is one of the best places where a young person can learn how our system of government works and can supplement a student’s education and experience in school.
As a sophomore in the House, this is the first time I’ve had the privilege of sponsoring pages from the 20th Legislative District. During odd year 105-day sessions, like this one, representatives in the House are limited to sponsoring four pages. This year, I received 11 requests for sponsorship. Thankfully, I was able to help all seven extra page applicants from the district to participate in this fantastic program.
The four students I sponsored and who served as my pages were Emma Hamilton from Chehalis, Haiden Bartel from Chehalis, Sommer Zurinskas from Chehalis, and Liliyn Lorentzen from Silverlake.
The additional seven students from the 20th Legislative District who served with other members in the House included Ian Hudson from Centralia, Messina Occhino from Chehalis, Jacob Nicholson from Toutle, Layla Laufmann from Castle Rock, Rowan Robinson from Chehalis, John Kuykendall from Centralia, and Maddison Flohr form Silverlake.
They all did a fantastic job helping legislators do the people’s work throughout session and represented their schools and communities with honor and integrity. I genuinely enjoyed getting to know each of them and learning about their unique backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations for the future. All four of these amazing young women are active in school sports, community activities, and more.
It truly is an honor to have our community at the Capitol and I appreciate the interest the students had for the program. I encourage more young people from throughout the 20th Legislative District to get involved and take advantage of this unique opportunity to have a front row seat to history being made.
To serve as a House page, students must be at least 14 years of age and have not reached their 17th birthday. The Legislature made a one-time exception this year; the weeks of February 5-10 and April 2-7 are designated for students who are 17-18 years old and were unable to participate previously due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pages earn a stipend of $50 per day and can also earn up to 20 hours of community service.
This op-ed appeared in The Chronicle on March 6, 2023: Rep. Abbarno Commentary: House Page Program Opens Opportunities for Local Students