Let’s take a brief look back in Virginia’s history to 1848. Help was needed and a dispute arose about the hiring of additional staff. The result was the institution of Virginia’s Page Program and it started with one Senate Page. Today, Virginia has one of the most extensive page programs in the country serving the Virginia State Senate and the Virginia House of Delegates. Assisting during the regular session of the General Assembly, some 40 pages were selected from across the Commonwealth to help in the House of Delegates.
One of those was 13-year-old Marie Clare Matricardi, a homeschooled student, who spent some nine weeks in Richmond.
“There were 20 boys and 20 girls,” said Marie Clare, the daughter of Ed and Terese Matricardi, who live in Reva. “There were also chaperones and we stayed in a hotel in Richmond during the week,” added Matricardi who said their day began at 8:30 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m.
After a couple days of training, pages are assigned to spend part of their time on the house floor or given responsibilities to help house and legislative staff as needed.
“There’s a lot to learn,” says Matricardi whose interest in the program ignited when her father asked if she might be interested in applying and gave her an article about it.
“It sounded pretty cool to me,” beamed the seventh grader.
She went through the process and was selected from some 300 applicants.
Being selected from a group of your peers statewide comes with its own rewards and challenges.
While learning, pages are working, and paid for their experiences but, like any employee, they are expected to conduct themselves professionally.
Fast friendships are made among fellow pages as they navigate the hallways of the Capitol complex delivering messages, picking up documents and, in Marie’s case, answering the phones.
“I was assigned to Information Communication Services,” said Matricardi who found herself helping constituents as they requested information about this particular house bill or another.
“Some knew what the bill was about but didn’t know the exact house bill number,” said Matricardi adding, “sometimes it was kind of tricky but I’d help them sort through it.”
Page protocol requires the wearing of a uniform of sorts.
Matricardi donned a blue blazer and grey slacks or a skirt. “Sometimes I even wore a tie.”
Nominated by Del. Michael Webert (R-18), who serves a portion of Culpeper, Matricardi saw a few other familiar faces like Del. Nick Freitas (R-30) while in Richmond.
Back from her time in the state’s capitol, Marie Clare was happy to return to her schedule which includes some four days a week at Marie’s School of Ballet. “I love dancing,” smiles Matricardi who also enjoys playing the piano and learning Latin.
Her parents share a love of history, and for this young teen, who would like to speak several languages, learning Latin – particularly diagramming sentences – seems a good starting point.
Poised and articulate, Marie Clare can carry on a conversation that would make you think you were talking to someone much older.
But then, a smile will creep across her face, as she giggles about funny things that happened among her page colleagues and “inside” jokes that kept them laughing while learning about the structure of state government and those who run it.
While serving as page, plenty of opportunity is given for field trips to places like the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and the Supreme Court of Virginia.
One of the highlights for Matricardi was attending a naturalization ceremony. “We got to hand out small flags to each person…that was very special.”
Another was a basketball game held between the pages and several of the delegates. “They won,” laughed Matricardi, “but I’m glad because apparently they had lost the year before.”
“I would definitely encourage others to do this,” says Matricardi. “I made so many friends…you get very close working and living in Richmond…I shed a lot of tears on the last day.”
And the future.
Matricardi paused thoughtfully, smiled and said, “I may run for the House of Delegates.”
Anita Sherman may be reached at email@example.com
Virginia House of Delegates Page Program
Each year the Speaker of the House of Delegates appoints 13 and 14-year-olds from across the Commonwealth to serve as House pages during the regular session of the General Assembly. These young people assist the members of the House of Delegates, the House Clerk’s staff, and other legislative staff in the daily duties required for the successful operation of the House of Delegates during the session.
Pages deliver documents throughout the Capitol complex, and perform errands for members and staff of the House of Delegates during each day’s floor session and at committee meetings. Pages are also selected for assignments in specific House offices including the Speaker’s Office, the Clerk’s Office, the Bill Room, the Copy Center, and the Governor’s Office. Pages are trained for these assignments during the first two days of their employment. Every effort is made to provide each page with a variety of work assignments. All work assignments are important to the legislative process and should be performed in a professional manner.
Serving as a page is a wonderful experience and an educational opportunity. However, it is also a 40-hour per week paid position for which they are making a firm commitment to report to work every day. Requests for time off to participate in extracurricular activities will not be granted. Their commitment requires hard work, initiative, responsibility, and a positive attitude. The Speaker and the Clerk expect excellent behavior from the pages and rely on a strong support network between the pages, their families, teachers, and the Clerk’s staff.
Source: Virginia State Page Program