RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Each legislative session, dozens of teens from across the Commonwealth get a chance to work alongside lawmakers inside the State Capitol.
Now, they are recruiting the next group.
The application process for both the Senate and House Page programs opens Tuesday.
“It’s an exceptional opportunity to have a front-row seat to the legislative process in Virginia,” said Bladen Finch.
Finch served as a Senate page in 1994. Now he runs the Senate page program.
“In recent years, we’ve seen the value of the program and the people who’ve been through it,” he said.
Finch said pages have gone on to become vice mayors, serve on city councils, act as county administrators and even serve in the Virginia Senate.
“We’re ready for the next one,” he said. “Hopefully one will serve as governor.”
Jay Pearson is the Virginia House of Delegates Sergeant at Arms.
“The people they get to work with — from delegates to staff to the governor — they have a lot of great opportunities when they’re here serving as house pages,” said Pearson.
The House page program dates back to 1847. Two male pages were appointed by the Sergeant at Arms. In 1847, the pay was $1.50 a day. In 1848, it was $2 a day. The first page position in the Senate can be traced to 1850 when William McCauley was paid $2 a day.
Today, pages receive $145 a week plus an expense allowance of $125 per week. They stay at a hotel in Richmond during the week and return home for the weekend.
PHOTOS: A look inside the Senate page program
PHOTOS: A look inside the Senate page program x
Finch has collected clippings from historic moments in the Senate page program, like when Sally Johnson was brought on as the first female Senate page and Vincent Tucker served as the first African American Senate page.
More recently, Thomas Cannella from the class of 2011 made news.
“At the age of 19, he ran for a seat on Poquoson City Council and won,” said Finch.
Cannella, now 20, is a sophomore at Christopher Newport University.
Finch also met Julian Winn who served as a Senate page in the 1930s. Prior to his death, Winn returned to the Capitol and visited the Senate chamber.
Finch said the experience stays with pages long after their time in the program ends.
“I think that the people that you meet as a Senate page are people that carry with you throughout your life. I still am in touch with many of my classmates,” he said.
Both Finch and Pearson see the transformation in the young pages.
“When they arrive here they’re so quiet and timid and it’s like, ‘okay, what am I doing to myself?'” said Pearson.
But that changes during their weeks at the Capitol.
“When they leave on the last day, you see the excitement that they have for the process and for the willingness to go back into their communities and serve,” said Finch.
Applicants must be 13 or 14 years old by the start of session, which is January 9, 2018.