Jessica: The founder of Microsoft, and one of the richest men in the world, Bill Gates was one. And so was the current longest-serving member of Congress, John Dingell. Both were pages for the House of Representatives. The program which traces back its history to the First Continental Congress in 1774. It allows high school juniors to live and study in Washington, D.C. while working for the House of Representatives.
And up until this month, any 16-year-old with a GPA of 3.0 could also apply to the prestigious program. But that all changed when the speaker of the house announced starting August 31st, the page program will no longer exist.
Robbie Abalon: My life wouldn’t be where it is without that program.
Jessica: Former pages, like Robbie Abalon, say the experience changed his life, transforming him from an unsure high school student to a determined district director for a state assemblyman.
Abalon: My worldview was very small. But after that program, I saw that a lot of things matter. It taught me an infinite amount about politics.
Jessica: KC Souza also pursued politics after her service on the Hill, and like Robbie, she is crushed that it is all coming to an end.
KC Souza: It’s just a part of the Capitol you always see. The kids in the blue blazers walking around. And I can’t imagine walking around without seeing them.
Jessica: Traditionally, the main job of congressional pages has been to deliver packages and messages to lawmakers. But new technology means those duties are no longer needed.
But it wasn’t new technology that ended the program, it was the budget. At a cost of $5 million plus each year, congressional leaders cut it, saying, ‘This decision was not easy, but it is necessary due to the prohibitive cost of the program and advances in technology that have rendered most page-provided services no longer essential to the smooth functioning of the House.’
It comes after a big battle over the budget this summer where Republicans and Democrats went down to the wire trying to agree on cuts. The final compromise came to more than $900 billion in cuts over the next decade. And a special committee is looking to make more cuts in the future.
Even though the House has stopped its page program, the senate has a similar program that you can still apply to. And you can find out more information about that on our Facebook page.