When legislators descend upon the Capitol and go to work on behalf of Iowans, they are joined by some of Iowa’s brightest and most talented high school students. These students spend the session (or half session) as Legislative pages – serving in the House, Senate and Legislative Services Agency. As the Speaker of the House, I have an office page that assists me and my staff, his primary responsibility being running soundboard in the chamber. I’ve asked him to share his perspective on being a page with you – meet my page, Tom.
Hello, My name is Thomas Biedenfeld, and I am a senior at Colfax-Mingo High School. During this legislative session, I have had the pleasure of serving as Speaker Paulsen’s Page.
I heard about the Page Program through my Extended Learning Program (ELP) teacher. Last year, I applied for the program, and I served in the Legislative Services Agency. During that session, I ran bill and amendment drafts to drafters, editors, and typists around the Capitol Building and Ola Babcock Miller Building. When these drafts were done, I then delivered them to the Legislators that requested them. This year, I had the opportunity to return to the State Capitol as the Speaker of the House’s Page.
Serving as the Speaker’s page, I have numerous responsibilities. These responsibilities include:
• I take pictures of the House Republicans with their constituents that visit the Capitol, take their information and develop press releases that are sent out to newspapers around the state.
• I run the microphones during debate, but before debate or session begins, I am in charge of bringing the gavels to the chamber, and bring them back to the office after.
• I answer phones and greet guests that visit the office.
• I get lunch for everyone in the office (what most in the office debate as the most important of these tasks).
The job that I enjoy the most is taking pictures of the House Republicans. It gives me the chance to interact with people from around the state. After taking down their information and hearing a town I’ve never heard of, I go back and find out what part of the state where both Representatives and their constituents are from.
I, like many pages, live on my own in Des Moines. While holding a full-time job, these pages often live away from home. Even though my hometown is thirty minutes away from home, I didn’t want to spend every morning in traffic. I live with three other pages in an apartment in Downtown Des Moines. Learning to live on your own is one of the best learning experiences I have had, this experience prepares us for college and living on our own. I have learned how to manage my time and resources during this time, and this is a skill I will use for the rest of my life.
Many pages also have to keep up with homework along with the approximately 40 hours per week we work. Working a full-time job, and keeping up with homework is probably the most difficult thing about this job. I have learned how to communicate with teachers and how to work around issues that arise while not being at school every day. Currently, I am taking 2 classes: Comp I and Intro to Mass Media. These are both Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) classes that I will get college credit for, however they are both different. Intro to Mass Media is an online class that I have little to no interaction with a professor. My Comp I class is a class taken through Colfax-Mingo High School where I have an on-site teacher and the grade is sent to DMACC. Besides these two classes, I also have to update a blog twice weekly. You can read in on my weekly happenings at www.lifeofabiedenfeld.blogspot.com.
Following graduation this May, I plan on continuing paying attention to local, state, and national politics, and working on a few campaigns during the summer. This upcoming fall, I will be attending the University of Iowa where I will be double majoring in Political Science and Communication Studies.
For any high school student that is interested in politics, the Page Program is a great learning experience. I encourage anyone who is interested to contact the Chief Clerk’s office, and pay attention to their website where applications should be posted around the time school is beginning.