CORNWALL — William Conlon got his first up-close-and-personal taste of politics last month when he won election as next year’s 11th-grade class president at Middlebury Union High School.
It will be an abbreviated term for the new office-holder, but that’s OK. That’s because Conlon will be leaving MUHS next January to spend five months on arguably the biggest political stage in the world — Washington, D.C., where Conlon will spend about five months as a U.S. Senate page representing the state of Vermont.
“I’m really excited,” Conlon, 15, of Cornwall, said of his selection as one of two Vermont page appointees, a status confirmed on May 28 by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Leahy picked Conlon and Georgia Parke of Stowe from among more than two dozen applicants for the coveted two slots, made available to high school juniors with excellent references and at least a 3.0 grade point average. Conlon and Parke will be two of only 30 pages from throughout the country to serve the U.S. Senate during the winter/spring school semester next year.
The students will reside in specially reserved housing and attend classes in Washington, D.C., while playing an important role in the day-to-day operation of the Senate. Their duties will include delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol building; bringing messages to senators; and carrying bills and amendments to the presiding officer’s desk.
It’s an experience that will give the teens an opportunity to meet some of the nation’s prominent leaders and occasionally witness history in the making.
The dramatic 2000 presidential election featuring former Vice President Al Gore and former President George W. Bush sparked Conlon’s interest in politics. He participated in the Model United Nations program and has been an avid observer of the political scene every since, taking time to devour headlines from newspapers, television and the Internet.
When he learned of the opportunity to view the nation’s legislative process up close as a page, Conlon eagerly applied. He wrote an essay stating why he wanted to become a page, and submitted it to Leahy’s office along with three letters of recommendation — one written by his MUHS social studies teacher, Tara Martin.
Conlon interviewed for the position in April and received word in mid-May that he had been selected. The news came from Leahy’s office.
“It was difficult to only choose two students, as there were many more applicants than available positions,” Leahy said through a press release, “but I have no doubt that Georgia and William are going to take full advantage of this opportunity. I am confident they will represent Vermont as outstanding pages in the U.S. Senate page program.”
Conlon is looking forward to his educational adventure in Washington, D.C., a city he once visited briefly but would like to get to know better.
“It is a great place; there is so much history there,” Conlon said.
It will be the longest stint the young man will ever have spent away from home, but he has no apprehensions about making the most of the opportunity to make new friends and learn the dynamics of a political system he has only viewed from afar.
“It’s going to be great,” he said.
William Conlon is the son of Peter and Mary Conlon of Cornwall.
“William has been a passionate student of politics and government for a long time, so this is truly an opportunity of a lifetime for him," said Mary Conlon.
“He knows how fortunate he was to be selected after he met many of the other candidates at a recent youth leadership conference at St. Michael's College,” she added. “They were all impressive kids.”
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.