Are you a high school or college student? Are you looking to get into a career in politics? Maybe you hate politics, but want to gain a better understanding of how it functions? Perhaps you’re simply tired of your boring routine and want to try something wholly different while making (a little) money at the same time.
Working as a page at the Rhode Island State House just might be the life for you.
“I think the pages perform a great duty up there,” said Michael McCaffrey, Rhode Island Senate Majority Leader.
Anybody 15 or older by Jan 1 of a new legislative session and who is currently enrolled in high school or college can be a page. To become a page, one can simply contact their district’s representative or state senator and express the interest in becoming one. New pages are compensated with a daily stipend of $30, and head pages – those who coordinate other pages and have more responsibilities – make $50 a day.
“Most of them only work one day a week,” said Frank McCabe, who has helped coordinate the State House page program for 12 years now. “They’re not in it for the money.”
Pages are essential cogs to the workings of the state’s legislative branch. They are the runners, the messengers, the delivery boys and girls who allow the elected officials to focus on their work – crafting bills, debating provisions and shaping the laws of Rhode Island.
McCabe described how each Representative has a button on their work desk, which will trigger a light and indicate to a page that they are being requested to perform a task.
“It could be anything,” said McCabe. “[Legislators] might want a particular Rep. to sign onto their bill...most of the time it’s tasks like somebody needing a bottle of water or they need something to be delivered to the library, or ‘Could you give this to the Speaker?’”
“For lack of a better word I’d call it ‘hectic,’” said Dylan Parra, a Warwick native and incoming senior at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, reflecting on his first year as a page for the Rhode Island House of Representatives.
Parra’s first legislative session was a head scratcher for even seasoned veterans of the State House as House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello sent the House home abruptly on the afternoon of June 30, the last day of the session, due to a clash over a last-minute amendment to the state budget made by the Rhode Island Senate.
“On top of everything that happened this year, I’d say it was especially hectic,” Parra recalled. “It was a lot of fun though. That’s part of it. It’s almost like it was out of a movie.”
“I wasn’t expecting that to be my last day,” said Johnston native, Allie Saker, who started working as a page at 16 and rose through the ranks to become a head page at 21. “I remember it was a nice day outside and we all kind of sat there confused and then once we figured out what was happening, it was like we were done for the summer too and we bolted out there.”
For Saker, becoming a page did not stem from a love of politics, but she was open to the opportunities it presented.
“I didn’t think I would stay there long because I wasn’t really a fan of politics,” she said. “The more I started listening the more I realized how important politics are. It opened up a different side of me and made me realize how important community involvement is and listening to opposing sides of an argument.”
According to McCabe, it is no surprise that this attitude eventually led Saker to become a head page.
“It’s very much up to the individual student [what they get out of being a page],” he said. “If they don’t have an interest in the process it’s not going to help them very much. If you pay attention…it gives them more of a reality dose. Making law is not an easy thing to do and is the essence of it is compromise. I think if the kids pay attention they’re going to see how that happens.”
Pages have an opportunity to make connections with many connected individuals, and they have an opportunity to get a look behind the curtains of government. According to McCabe and House Majority Leader, K. Joseph Shekarchi, many former and current representatives started out as pages.
“It’s a great educational experience to really see how government works up front. Some of the pages have really gone onto great things,” said Shekarchi, a former page himself. “The pages I interact with are young, high-achieving adults and they’re destined for great things in life.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity for kids,” Saker said. “I think it’s important for everyone to know about. There’s so much valuable experience you can gain...It’s something that I’ll never forget.”