Englewood junior serves as Congressional page

Posted 4/1/09

Sofia Mai hasn’t been in her hometown of Englewood very much since September because she has been serving as a Congressional page in Washington, …

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Englewood junior serves as Congressional page


Sofia Mai hasn’t been in her hometown of Englewood very much since September because she has been serving as a Congressional page in Washington, D.C.

She was nominated as a page in August when Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-Denver, was notified she could select a page for the coming term.

The Congresswoman said every member of the U.S. House of Representatives doesn’t get to nominate a page every session. The clerk of pages keeps track and notifies a representative when a nominee is needed.

So, when the Congresswoman got the call in August, she said, since her last pages were from Denver and since her district included Englewood, she turned to Englewood High School for a nominee.

Then EHS Principal Linda Torres nominated Mai. She met the qualifications since she was 16, a junior and had a 3.0 or better grade point average.

Mai completed the application process, she was accepted and traveled to Washington just after Labor Day. Normally a page serves one term and Mai was originally scheduled to complete her term in early January. However, she was one of 12 pages asked to stay on for a second term and serve until May.

Recently, she had a break in her busy schedule which allowed Mai to take time to visit Congresswoman DeGette’s Washington, D.C., office and spend a few minutes talking about her experiences as a Congressional page.

How do you like being a page?

It is the best experience I have ever had. I’ve been here since September and learned so much. I’m glad I got to stay the extra session but there is so much still to see and learn that I’m still not really ready to go home yet.

What is a typical day’s schedule for you?

I wake up at about 5:30 a.m. and get ready to go to school that starts at 6:45. We are in class until its time for us to head off to work about 9 a.m. That is an hour before the Congressional session starts at about 10 a.m. We get our assignment, work until it’s time to take a break for lunch. After lunch, we go back to work until the session is adjourned. I have a little different schedule because I am a documentation page now, which means I have to be on duty an hour early. Part of my duties involve raising the American flag over the House of Representatives. That is because it is the tradition that the American flag flies when the House of Representatives is in session. The two of us on duty raise the flag at the start of the session and lower it when the session is adjourned.

In addition, the two of us are responsible for ringing the bell system for votes. There are bells in all offices and halls of the House office buildings. We ring a series of signals to let members know how long it is until a vote is scheduled to be taken so they can come for the floor of the House of Representatives to vote. Documentation pages also stay for special orders which come after the legislative business is concluded and is a time a member can be recognized and speak on any subject he or she wishes to discuss. The other night the special orders time ran until 10 p.m. and, once they finished, the other page and I went up, lowered the flag and then we got to go home.

How do you keep up with your education?

The Page School is on the upper floor of the Library of Congress. We got to classes every weekday. There are 40-minute classes in subjects like English and math, classes in French and Spanish, there is a class in social studies and there is even a yearbook class. Of course, you are learning every day just being here in Washington, D.C., and being a Congressional page. Academically, we are not in class six hours a day like we were at Englewood High School. But the Page School classes are very good academically and we have a lot of homework to make up for the time we are not in class. Also the pages also get to see and do a lot of things that are educational. For example, we take field trips to historic sites like we are scheduled to go to Gettysburg next weekend. Also, we get to be a part of events. For example, we had tickets to the Presidential Inauguration. That was absolutely awesome.

You were originally to serve the fall semester that ended in January. How did you get selected to stay on as a page?

I expected I would go home in January but I wasn’t looking forward to it because I wanted to stay in Washington a while longer. Fortunately, they needed some additional pages for the second session and the Clerk of Pages asked 12 of the 60 pages to serve a second session. I was lucky enough to be one of the 12 asked to stay a second session and I quickly said yes, so now I’ll be here until early June.

What are you learning by living here in the Nation’s capital?

One important lesson I am learning is how to be more independent as I live away from home and live on my own. That is important because I am planning to go away to college after I graduate from high school.

How much do you feel you have matured serving as a Congressional page?

A lot. I know I am less shy and I am more self-confident than I was before I came here. I did have to learn to walk a lot faster than I used to. Now I walk at what we call the “page walk” which is pretty fast because we have to move quickly from place to place to do our job. I know that all these incredible experienced I am having here have helped me mature and I want to remember all the details That’s the reason I have take tons of pictures and have written things down so I don’t forget the time I spent here.

You don’t work all the time, so what keep you busy?

The Page Program sets up a lot of programs to make sure we get out and visit the sights in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area instead of just staying in our rooms and sleep when we aren’t on duty. We have taken trips to the Monticello home of Thomas Jefferson and next week, we are going to Gettysburg. Here in the city, we have visited many of the museums right here on the National Mall. We also have taken trips to colleges like the University of Virginia and George Washington University. The trips are great and along with doing homework, laundry and keeping the room neat, we are pretty busy most of the time.

How much has this experience taught you about the American governmental system?

I have learned so much about our government. When I first got here, I didn’t understand much of what they were doing or saying during the House of Representative sessions. Now, I better understand the legislative process and the issues they are voting on. Also, the pages see the legislative calendar so we know in advance the issues that are coming before the U.S. House of Representatives.

What will you take back to Englewood when your term is completed?

I’ll take all these wonderful experiences I have had here home with me. For example, just today, I met Sen. John McCain. That was special as was the fact we were here for passage of the federal stimulus bill. There are the little things too. I have made friends with people from around the country and learned from them. I also learned about early classes and I know, when I get home, I won’t complain about a 9 a.m. class. That’s so much better than starting school at 6:45.

Are you ready to go home?

Yes and no. I’m not ready to go home because I just love it here, I enjoy being a page and being with the friends I have made while I am here. But going home will be nice because I do miss being at Englewood. I miss my family, my friends, I didn’t get to go to prom and I miss sports because I was on the swim team and the tennis team. But I will have the summer to catch up with everyone and I really feel I will return to Englewood High School a more mature person because of my experiences as a Congressional page.


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