River HomeLink student finds voice in Olympia

Jenny Drygas-Miller with Rep. Paul HarrisWith the Washington State Legislature’s session quickly drawing to a close, all eyes are on Olympia as our elected leaders attempt to finalize the state’s budget. In addition to hammering out the fiscal details that have the potential to have a huge impact on school funding in the coming years, legislators have also proposed changes that will impact families, such as Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver’s bill to limit personal exemptions when it comes to vaccines. While most of us can only follow along by watching and reading the news, River HomeLink tenth grader Jenny Drygas-Miller recently got an up close and personal look at the legislative process.

Drygas-Miller is no stranger to being in a leadership position. Now in her fourth consecutive year of serving as an ASB representative for her school, it’s safe to say that she has more experience as an elected leader than the vast majority of her 16-year-old peers. And after serving a one-week term in the Washington State House of Representatives’ page program for Rep. Harris, Drygas-Miller has gained even more insight into what it means to be an effective elected leader.

While serving as a page for a full week at the end of February during the current Legislative session, Drygas-Miller got to see the inner workings of state government in action. Page duties are varied, ranging from ceremonial tasks such as presenting the flags to operational chores like distributing amendments and delivering messages during legislative sessions. Each job is vital to the efficient operation of the Legislature. In addition to their daily duties, pages also spend two hours each day in a classroom setting learning about the legislative process.

When not in page school or on duty performing her page responsibilities, Drygas-Miller and the other student pages got the opportunity to attend appropriations committee hearings, sit in on a state Supreme Court proceeding, and even perform their own mock committee hearings. The week culminated in the pages drafting their own mock bills, which they then debated and voted on in the chambers of the statehouse in Olympia.

“I learned so much in just a week of serving as a page,” Drygas-Miller said. “The most eye-opening part of the experience was seeing people come together and work towards positive change despite coming from vastly different backgrounds. It was impressive to see citizens come to the capitol from all over the state to have their voices be heard. It made me realize that government can provide a real, personal experience for people who care about certain issues. Dealing with the government doesn’t have to be this abstract, difficult experience.”

“Civic education is an important part of our state’s curriculum, and our House Page Program gives students a firsthand look at government in action,” Rep. Harris said in a news release. “Jenny did a fantastic job paging.”

Drygas-Miller wants to pursue a career in physical therapy after high school. Even though her experience as a page didn’t inspire her to consider running for office herself someday, she’ll always treasure the experience and the connections she made during her week in Olympia.

“I would definitely recommend the page program to other students,” Drygas-Miller said. “If I could do it over again, I definitely would. Not only was it really fun, but it also felt empowering. Seeing that our elected state representatives are approachable and want to hear from their constituents was so encouraging. It’s important for kids to understand that we have opportunities to get involved and have our voices heard.”

The page program for the Washington State House of Representatives dates all the way back to 1891. Paging presents students from across the state with a unique educational opportunity to participate in the legislative process. Visit http://leg.wa.gov/House/pages/housepageprogram.aspx if your student is interested in applying to be a page for the 2019-20 school year.