LA PLATA, Md. – Each year in January, the Maryland General Assembly reconvenes for another legislative session. From discussing and voting on nearly 2,500 laws to managing both the capital and operating budgets for the state, senators and delegates work to pursue the best interests of Maryland residents. Another component to the annual legislative session is the inclusion of high school students in a program called the Maryland Student Page Program.
Nearly 105 students participate in the program annually, with three representatives serving from each county and a fourth student chosen as an alternate. Seniors from three different Charles County Public high schools were selected to serve in the 2019 program. They are Apryle Bennett of North Point High School, Renee Deminne of St. Charles High School and Carlos Eldridge Jr. of Westlake High School. Westlake senior Aqsa Siddique will serve as program alternate.
The selection process is highly competitive and students must complete an application and essay detailing their interest in the program. Interested students then go before a panel of judges for an interview to discuss their interest in learning about politics and public service.
Pages are assigned to work for two nonconsecutive weeks in either the Maryland State Senate or House of Delegates in Annapolis. Duties range from delivering messages to staff, distributing materials and assisting visitors, to working with staff committees and other legislative offices. Pages also receive a $55 daily stipend to cover travel expenses. Most students who apply to the program are interested in a future involving government and/or politics.
Bennett will work in Annapolis during weeks three and nine of the legislative session and plans to major in political science and economics. She said she applied because of her passion for learning about public policy. “I am interested in learning about how policies are made and understanding the law,” Bennett said. She has participated with the Mock Trial program since she was a freshman and is part of two committees with the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MASC).
In addition to student government experience at the local and state levels, Bennett also serves as an MASC class trainer in which she leads workshops for her peers about parliamentary procedures and voting. “I really enjoy teaching workshops for students. I am teaching at the MASC legislative session in February and again in the spring,” Bennett said.
Bennett is set to graduate among some of the top achievers in the North Point Class of 2019. She is currently enrolled in four Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and completed five during her sophomore and junior years. Her 10-year plan includes getting her bachelor’s degree, heading to law school and then securing a position either with a law firm or with a district attorney’s office. “I think I want to pursue criminal law or civil litigation,” she said. Her school of choice is Boston University or a fast-track juris doctorate program at the University of Connecticut.
Deminne is set to visit Annapolis during weeks seven and 13 of the legislative session. She said she learned about the program through teachers at St. Charles and applied to continue learning about topics she is passionate about – government and policy. Her passion for government landed her in Moldova this summer as part of a National Security Language Initiative for Youth scholarship program. The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors the program. She is also a four-year member of the St. Charles Mock Trial team, and two-year member of It’s Academic.
Deminne’s goal after college is to work in foreign diplomacy with the State Department. “I see myself working for the State Department in foreign diplomacy. I would love to be somewhere in Eastern Europe or Central Asia,” Deminne said. She hopes her participation in the Page program will provide her with first-hand opportunities to learn how the legislative process works. “I really look forward to being around a diverse group of people… people that have the same passions,” Deminne said.
At the end of her junior year, Deminne was slated to represent the St. Charles Class of 2019 as either valedictorian or salutatorian. She is enrolled in four AP classes, and previously completed nine AP courses during her sophomore and junior years. Deminne is also taking an economics course this semester at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM). Her top three college choices are Harvard, Georgetown or Columbia universities, and she intends to major in political science and legislative affairs.
Eldridge will participate in the program during weeks two and eight and also plans to study political science after he graduates. He is president of the Charles County Association of Student Councils (CCASC), in which he oversees more than 200 Charles County student delegates. He also serves as the Westlake student liaison to the Parent-Teacher-Student-Organization (PTSO) and is section leader of the low brass for the school symphonic band. His interest in the Page program piqued as a freshman. “A classmate of mine was chosen for the experience and talked about how great it was. I have always had an interest in legislation and politics and thought it would be interesting,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge is in the process of applying to several colleges and universities. He plans to attend law school and study constitutional law. “When I was doing career research, I started to look at judges and think I may want to eventually end up on the Supreme Court,” Eldridge said. For now, he is hoping to get into either the University of Virginia or Georgetown University, but has already received scholarship offers from several other schools.
Eldridge is also a role model in the classroom, among student athletes and in his community. The honor-roll student is taking three AP classes and earned accolades for his accomplishments in regional and state-level track and field competitions. He is a member of the Marching Wolverines and active with his church youth leadership council. Eldridge is also up for his Eagle Scout and recently held a CPR certification course for more than 80 members in Boy Scout Troop 1657.
Siddique is Charles County’s alternate. She is already involved with political groups in Charles County, such as the Women of Action Charles County, and is currently an intern with Congressman Steny Hoyer’s office. She also participated in a recent state coordinated election campaign for a candidate for the Office of Governor. Siddique wants to become a lawyer and plans to major in international relations and political science. She is a dually enrolled student at CSM and charity coordinator for the CCASC. Her top picks for colleges include New York University and Fordham University.
Siddique said she hopes her experience as an alternate with the Page program gives her a closer look at how the government runs. “I hope to use the opportunity to learn how the Maryland legislative process works… how a bill becomes a law, how influential the delegates are. This is my view for my future,” she said.