Arlington Student Gets Glimpse at Life in Va. Senate


(Tuesday, February 13, 2007 6:14 AM EST)

Working side by side with senators would be a dream come true for many young aspiring politicians. Thirteen-year-old Max Blackman of Arlington has had this dream realized as a Senate page during the current session of the General Assembly.

“I've always wanted to be a politician,” he said. “And now that I've learned more, my desire has been strengthened.”

The General Assembly's page program selects one page per district, and Blackman was the student chosen for state Sen. Mary Magaret Whipple's district, which covers parts of Arlington and Fairfax counties and the City of Falls Church.

Blackman, an eighth-grade student at Alexandria Country Day School, reported to Richmond for orientation on Jan. 7, and will serve until the session adjourns on Feb. 24.

“Max Blackman is eager and energetic and seems to be having a wonderful time,” Sen. Whipple said.

Although he is far from home, Blackman is adjusting easily to life in Virginia's capital.

“I'm pretty occupied with work and you make a lot of friends here,” he said. “It's not as hard as it seems.”

The pages' days start at 6:30 a.m., and they report to the page room for work by 8:15 a.m. Pages are assigned to different jobs each day, ranging from helping out in the clerk's office, to getting coffee and lunch for politicians at committee meetings, to running errands for senators on the floor.

Blackman's favorite assignment is to work on the floor, because he “gets to interact with the senators, and some of them are really funny.”

Pages finish their work day at 5 p.m., but the students don't stop there. They are required to maintain their grades and schoolwork and attend mandatory two-hour study sessions Mondays through Thursdays.

The pages are allowed to return home for weekends, so Blackman gets homework from his sister and catches up throughout the week.

“My teachers are very understanding about it,” he said. “They tell me to take advantage of the opportunity, and not worry about schoolwork as much.”

The page program has supervisors for the students, but on the whole, they have a good deal of independence. Pages receive a stipend at the beginning of the week, and they have to ration what they want to spend on food and other personal expenses.

In his experience so far, Blackman said he has learned how to be more patient, and is better at managing his time and money.

Blackman said he recommends the program to other students.

“It's fun and informative,” he said. “On top of the work we do, we get to go on tours around Richmond.”

“We're very proud of him,” said his mother, Anita Blackman. “I'm happy for him to have this opportunity.”

Max Blackman was selected by state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-31st, to serve as a page in the Virginia State Senate.

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