Smithfield student serves as Senate page
Published 7:49 pm Monday, September 15, 2014
After a recent stint as a page in the U.S. Senate, Smithfield High School junior Grace Reon came away with a new appreciation of the importance of a politically engaged public.
Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Reon spent four weeks on Capitol Hill, departing Washington on the first day of August.
“I’m really, really interested in public policy,” Reon said. “I’ve been on the debate team since the eighth grade, and I do a lot of reading about laws and their consequences.”
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Reon said she signed up for the program, because she wanted to see firsthand the process by which laws are made. “Because we feel the effects, I wanted to see how it gets to that place,” she added.
Specifically, the teen said she’s interested in women’s rights and social issues, including helping those who don’t always have access to the resources they need.
She said her daily routine in Washington placed her right in the middle of the action. Depending what time senators were to convene for the day, she would arrive at the chamber at 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. — after fighting for her turn in the bathroom at the page dorm where she stayed.
Passing through tunnels to get to the chamber from the Senate office building, Reon and her fellow pages would ensure senators had the correct information for the day’s business on their desks, then work in shifts — an hour on, an hour off.
“We would sit on a step on the Senate floor called a rostrum,” she said. “Whenever anybody needed anything, we’d jump up, do it, and sit back down.”
Each shift would usually have 15 Democratic and Republican pages apiece, Reon said, noting there are many people working behind the scenes in the Senate who don’t get much recognition.
She also reflected that the lawmakers get along better than outside appearances would suggest, asking after family members and making other friendly small talk while joining to support legislation that doesn’t get as much publicity as legislation that’s more divisive.
“They all, regardless of party, have relationships with each other,” she said. “There are a lot of things they do every day that have bipartisan support.”
While Reon was interested in working in the political arena before, she says she now is “very interested.”
She wants to study pre-law or political science. “Maybe one day” she replied when asked if public office might be in her future.
Reon said many of her classmates at Smithfield High have been eager to hear about her experience.
“I think it’s important for people to occasionally turn on C-SPAN and see what the people they have elected are trying to do to help them,” she said.
“We are affected by laws, so we should be involved in the process of making them.”