Why Don't You Become a Page? Satchel, Sarah Grace, Heather, and Abbey Encourage You to Apply NOW!
During medieval times, pages served as attendants to knights often delivering messages, serving meals, cleaning armour, and learning basic knowledge and skills necessary for knighthood including honoring the code of conduct known as chivalry. Pages were knights in training advancing from the page to squire to knighthood.
Modern day pages in Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates don’t polish armour very often or practice fencing or jousting, but they do serve their knights--senators and delegates--and along the way develop leadership skills and self-discipline and must honor a high code of conduct. They learn first-hand how government works. Many United States senators and delegates began their political career as pages in their state legislatures. (Photo above: Satchel Roller poses at Delegate Todd Gilbert's desk . . .maybe one day!)
“Virginia’s legislature has one of the most robust page programs still running in the country, paying teens to assist (Pages receive a salary and a meals' stipend.) and live like lawmakers,” wrote David Kidd in his Politics column (January 2015). “Pages across the country return to state capitols [in January to help out and to learn about the lawmaking process. Several states have legislative page programs, but few are as extensive as Virginia’s,” whose page programs dates back to 1848.
During an interview on a local TV station, House Speaker William Howell commented, “Pages are irreplaceable. Receiving a rare glimpse at a young age into Virginia politics, they learn how government works. Many of them have come back either as people working in the legislature or as elected officials. It’s a great program.”
Several Shenandoah County students have served as pages in Virginia’s General Assembly. Abbey and Sarah Grace Schechtel, daughters of Shelley and Peter Schechtel, worked as Virginia Senate Pages.
Abbey Schechtel was a Virginia Senate Page in 2008. “Our class was the first class in the renovated Capitol building,” she said, “and that was kind of cool. Serving as a Virginia Senate Page,” she continued, “was definitely a great experience. It was so great that I pushed my sister to apply and she loved it!” Abbey Schechtel asserts that the.page experience has “influenced my life ever since.”
Abbey graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in foreign affairs and political science. Though she does not aspire to run for office, she does like working behind the scenes. During the 2016 session of the Virginia General Assembly, she worked as an intern for Delegate Rob Bell, an experience that gave her a different perspective since she had been a page in the Virginia Senate. In addition, as an intern she was able to attend committee meetings and “go behind the scenes” much more than she was able to during her time as a Senate Page. Currently, Abbey works in Media Analytics.gathering information about transportation. Her written reports are part of morning briefings for the US Department of Transportation. “Being a page started it all,” she said.
Sarah Grace Schechtel, Abbey’s younger sister, was a Virginia Senate Page in 2015 under the sponsorship of Senator Mark Obenshain. Sarah Grace described her experience as “definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity.” One of seven children, Sarah said the first week was difficult because she is used to having family around her. When she first arrived in Richmond, she knew no one, but as time passed, she became friends with the other pages she worked with. “The experience was like-pre-college,” she said. “I was on my own as I learned about money and time management. There was work from 8-5 and dinner and then homework. I had to decide where to eat and what to spend. It was definitely hands-on learning.” Her responsibilities as a Virginia Senate Page varied depending on her location. Sometimes Sarah Grace was “running around the General Assembly Building getting signatures” or others times she might have lunch duty.
Sarah Grace wants “to stay connected to the Legislative Branch” of Virginia’s Government. She helped Todd Gilbert during his 2015 election campaign, and she is considering becoming an Intern in the Senate or House..
Sarah Grace (left) and Abbey Schechtel
served as Virginia Senate Pages.
Heather Landes, the Salutatorian of Central High School’s Class of 2014, was a page in the Virginia Senate in 2011. The daughter of Tracy Landes, Heather spent this summer as a full-time intern in the Virginia Senate, likely a position she acquired because of her previous service as a page.
"As a result of my time serving at the General Assembly," reported Heather, "I became a foreign affairs major at the University of Virginia. This past summer, I had the opportunity to enrich my political knowledge as an intern for the Virginia Senate Clerk's Office. During this internship, I helped Mr. Bladen Finch, Ms. Joanna Bolstad, and Clerk of the Senate, Ms. Susan Schaar formulate educational activities that will further enhance the page experience.
Additionally, as of this past summer, we have changed the name from "The Virginia Senate Page Program" to "The Virginia Senate Page Leadership Program" to better reflect how this unique experience helps to mold young people into future leaders.
"My time as a Virginia Senate Page set me up for a lifetime of success in all aspects of life and encouraged me to explore an exciting career path that I would not have had the opportunity to experience otherwise,:" said Heather.
Heather Landes, 2011 Senate Page
Heather Landes, 2016 Virginia Senate Intern and
Bladen Finch, Senate Page Program Director/Civics Coordinator,
pause for a photo in the Rotunda, Virginia State Capitol Complex
Tracy Landes, Heather’s mother, made this general observation about participation in the Page Program: “They (the pages) find out how big they are and how small they are at the same time.”
Students interested in becoming a page may want to talk to Satchel Roller, Shenandoah County Public Schools’ most recent page. Satchel was a page in the Virginia House of Delegates from January 11 - March 11, 2016.
Satchel, the son of Mandy and Mark Roller, is a sophomore at Strasburg High School. Satchel has always been interested in politics and engineering and one day hopes a double major in the two will allow him to serve the public and make life better for those who do not have access to affordable energy or clean water. Because of these passions, his mom helped him look into becoming a page when he was in seventh grade. “We talked with Delegate Gilbert, who shared the application process with us,” said Ms. Roller. “Satch didn’t actively pursue applying until after his eighth grade year because he didn’t want to leave his middle school basketball team.”
“I met powerful delegates and made a lot of connections while I was a page,” Satchel commented. “I learned about how state government works, and I made new friends.”
“I saw Satchel almost every day,” said Delegate Todd Gilbert, who nominated Satchel and represents the 15th District of Virginia in House of Delegates. “He is a fine young man and really embraced this opportunity. Satchel was very interested in how we shape public policy. Serving as a page may leave a lasting impact on whatever Satchel decides to do.”
The application process for Satchel included completion of the application itself, an endorsement letter from Todd Gilbert, an essay about why he wanted to be a page, and letters of authorization not only from Principal Morgan Saeler, but also from Strasburg Guidance counselors and his teachers. Satchel completed all of the requirements in September and October and received notification of his acceptance in December.
Because pages do not attend school during their service, Satchel had to make arrangements with his teachers at Strasburg High School. Every week Satchel got assignments from his teachers, and then after completing that week’s work in Richmond, he picked up new assignments for the following week. “Teachers were very helpful,” he noted.
House pages must arrive at the Richmond Omni Hotel on Sunday evenings. They live at the Omni with chaperones through the week. Their work hours are 8:30 - 5:00 PM Monday - Friday, but they are allowed to leave at 2 PM on Friday to travel home. Pages do have a little “down time” with occasional, educational field trips to historical sites and museums.
Satchel’s work as a page varied depending on the day and whether or not he was in the office of a delegate or if he was on the floor when the General Assembly was in session or if he was at a committee meeting. He might run errands such as delivering documents throughout the Capitol complex. Sometimes, he made copies, answered the phone, or simply got lunch for a delegate or an assistant. All page work assignments are important to the legislative process, and efforts are made to be certain pages are given varied tasks.
Amanda Roller, Satchel’s mother and the Principal of Peter Muhlenberg Middle School, had a sort of roller coaster ride of emotions when she learned about Satchel’s acceptance into the Virginia House of Delegates Page Program. “We were thrilled when we found out Satch was selected but have to admit a little fearful, too. Sending your first born to live and work in Richmond for a few months is a bit scary! But all our fears vanished when we attended the orientation and talked to Tami Carsillo, the Director of the Page Program and a former school teacher.”
“I learned that the life of a page is quite structured and protected,” Ms. Roller explained. “Pages are young. They are only 13 or 14 years old. After the work day is finished, they have a two hour break for free time and dinner, but they are on the buddy system and are restricted to a 2-block radius around the Omni. Then, there’s a mandatory Study Hall from 7 - 9 PM with certified teachers who supervise the students. After that, there’s social time from 9-10.”
“This was such a great, positive experience for Satchel,” Ms. Roller concluded. “ It was the neatest opportunity for my son---to be of service and to learn in the process.”
Satchel Roller lists political -science as a possible college major. Perhaps one day, he will decide to enter politics himself and become a delegate or a senator who has a page assisting him. (Photo: Satchel stands on the Virginia's State Seal outside the Capitol Complex.)
Satchel welcomes inquiries about his experience as a page: Contact him through email, please. firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional information and application forms for serving as a page during the 2017 session of the General Assembly are available online:
The deadline for submission is 5:00 p.m., Monday, October 17, 2016. Applicants must be 13 or 14-years-old on Wednesday, January 11, 2017, to be eligible to serve as a page in the Virginia Senate or in the House of Delegates..