Two Richmond County teens recently sacrificed a week of precious summer vacation and jumped on a chance to work as pages in the NC House of Representatives.
Ashley Hines, a 17-year-old from Hamlet, and Mary Beth Leviner, a 16-year-old from Rockingham, were both chosen for the prestigious opportunity through the SaySo organization.
SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) is a statewide association of youth aged 14 to 24 who are or have been in the out-of-home care system that is based in North Carolina. This includes all types of substitute care, including foster care.
“We choose applicants based on recommendations from their adult supporters through the Richmond County Department of Social Services, they must also have good references from teachers, good grades and they can’t have any discipline problems,” said Lauren Zingraff, program coordinator for SaySo. “It’s also important that the applicants show a genuine interest in participating.”
The number of applicants chosen to work as pages during the SaySo page week depends on the space available. Up to 12 can be selected. This past week, three young people were chosen to serve as House pages and two were chosen to serve as Senate pages.
The girls stayed with a volunteer “house mom,” Linda Ball, in Raleigh.
Leviner said she saw this as a unique opportunity to gain a better understanding of politics.
“I didn’t really understand a lot of the politics I see on TV, and I thought seeing it all for myself would help me,” said Leviner. “I’m interested in politics, and have thought about being a representative or a senator some day.”
Being allowed to be a part of the sessions opened her eyes to “how politics works.” The experience helped confirm some of her own political views, and she was impressed with how the elected men and women defended their positions.
“The best thing about the experience was watching the chaos, and seeing how they managed to disagree and argue — but still stay respectful,” she said.
The pages were responsible for everything from relaying messages to copying and distributing documents.
Leviner, who has held a part-time job at Subway, said the experience as a page showed her the importance of teamwork when trying to accomplish any type of work.
“I think the most important thing I took away from this was that you have to vote how you believe,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right to just jump on a bandwagon and vote however your party votes. You have to take a stand for what’s right.”
Hines chose to apply for the position because she thought it would be a good preparatory experience for college.
“It was different than I thought it would be,” said Hines. “We actually got to meet the Senate and House members. They talked to us and gave us business cards. They even said we could contact them in the future if we needed help or college letters.”
One person who stands out in Hines’ memory is Rep. Ken Goodman, because she learned that he’s from Richmond County.
“I feel like that experience opened up new opportunities for me,” she said.
The biggest thing Hines took from the experience — seeing government in action — is better than just reading about it.
“Learning about politics from a textbook doesn’t explain it nearly as much as seeing it does,” she said.
Zingraff reported that she received nothing but positive feedback about the girls from the House Page Program.
“Mary Beth and Ashley did an extraordinary job,” said Zingraff. “They were professional, respectful and responsible throughout the week.”
— Staff Writer Kelli Easterling can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.