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Mount Abraham student joins elite page program

BRISTOL — Fourteen-year-old Emily Aldrich of Bristol was looking for a front-row seat to observe the legislative process. The Mount Abraham Union Middle School eighth-grader found it when she recently was selected for the page program run by the Vermont Legislature.
“It was a good opportunity for me to learn more about the legislative stuff, from the government side,” said Aldrich, who is one of about 30 eighth-graders from around the state who will act as pages at the Vermont Statehouse during the current legislative session.
The pages are divided into three six-week sessions. Aldrich started in Montpelier Feb. 18. Instead of commuting daily from Bristol to the capital, Aldrich, the daughter of Elizabeth and Robert Aldrich, said she is staying with her grandparents in Waterbury.
In order to be accepted, Aldrich had to write a letter explaining why she would like to be a page, and send a photo of herself. Aldrich’s teacher and principal had to enclose letters with her application that granted permission for Aldrich to miss six weeks of school.
The Sergeant at Arms of the Legislature, who oversees the program, receives around 150 applications from prospective pages each year. Just 30 students are selected.
Pages receive a meager salary for their services. Aldrich said she is paid $130 per week, plus another $45 per week for expenses. She typically works in Montpelier from Tuesday through Friday.
“On Mondays, I’ll be in school, where I’ll get all the work for the week from my teachers,” Aldrich said.
At the Statehouse, pages are expected to dress professionally. They are each issued a green blazer, but must purchase a white shirt and grey slacks to complete the attire.
EMILY ALDRICH, IN her official page attire, stands ready to serve lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives in Montpelier.
Three weeks into her stint, the Independent checked in with Aldrich to hear her thoughts about the page program.
She said much of the time she is assigned to the lobby, where she directs visitors and officials to different committee rooms. Other days, she delivers messages to representatives and senators.
But it’s not all work and no play for the Statehouse pages.
“I like being in the lobby because when there’s a lot of down time, you can bring a deck of cards and start playing with anyone,” Aldrich said.
A lighter moment occurred last Wednesday when a bat took up residence in the House chamber.
“The bat flew through a hole in a light, into the chamber,” Aldrich said. “We didn’t realize it until the House was in session.”
The legislators persevered and conducted business as usual. Meanwhile, the bat took a liking to the ornate furnishings of the chamber, and remained there through the rest of the week. Aldrich said she and the other pages named the nocturnal mammal “Billy” in honor of the bills the legislators were working on.
“We’re hoping it flies away or something,” Aldrich said. “They said there’s usually one every session.”
The bat wasn’t Aldrich’s only run-in with animals at the capitol. She also discovered a mouse in the trashcan near her locker.
“The trash can was rocking back and forth,” Aldrich said. “We thought it was a rat but it was the smallest mouse.”
Aldrich said it is not difficult to stay on top of all her schoolwork because much of it is digitized.
“So far it’s been really easy to stay on task,” Aldrich said. “I can print my math homework, and my social studies teacher has things online, too.”
While she said she does not think she will pursue a career in politics or government, Aldrich said she is enjoying her time in Montpelier. She added she has gotten to know all of the pages, and that they went to dinner as a group last Thursday.
“I’m having a good time meeting a lot of people,” Aldrich said. “There’s a lot going on in the Statehouse.”

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