Saline High School student Melinda McCabe spent three weeks as a U. S. Senate page.
When Democrats in the U. S. Senate began a talkathon on the floor to protest the Senate Republican health care proposal in June, Saline High School student Melinda McCabe wasn’t just following along — she was witnessing it firsthand.
From June 11-30, McCabe, 17, lived and worked in Washington D. C. as a U. S. Senate page, one of 36 high school students nationwide selected to do so. She was sponsored by U. S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. The page program started in 1829 and is limited to high school juniors who are at least sixteen years old.
As part of their duties, Senate pages prepare the Senate chamber for session, deliver legislation and run errands in the Capitol and Senate office buildings.
But as a page, McCabe also got to witness part of the political showdown of the summer as senators debated the future of the nation’s health care system.
« This is something that doesn’t happen very often, » said McCabe, who said she and the other pages occasionally didn’t get out of work until midnight.
McCabe has had a long-standing interest in politics spurred in part by her father, who she said is a history teacher. She said she wanted to become a Senate page after learning about the opportunity during a visit to Washington, D. C. in 2012, and said her experience gave her more knowledge of what it actually takes to make a bill become law.
McCabe said she appreciated the time senators invested in their pages, and was thankful to Peters for the opportunity.
In a statement, Peters congratulated Melinda on her successful tenure and said he looks forward to seeing what she accomplishes in the future.
« The Senate Page Program is a unique way for students who are passionate about public service to learn firsthand about how our government works, » he said. « By supporting daily functions in the Senate, students like Melinda are gaining the skills needed to become civic leaders in their communities. »
One of McCabe’s favorite aspects of the experience was watching true bipartisan friendships play out on the Senate floor.
« They’d walk in together, be talking about what their kids were doing, and in the next 10 minutes they’d be voting on different sides of an issue, » she said. « That wasn’t something I was really expecting. »
She said that bipartisanship played out among the group of pages as well — most of the pages were very politically minded and had varying viewpoints, but often bonded over their shared interest in politics.
McCabe is currently completing an internship with U. S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and said she hopes to get involved with a gubernatorial or senatorial campaign as the school year picks up. She plans to study public policy in college.
« I think a lot of people my age in this 18-24 age group feel like they can’t make a difference, » she said. « The decisions elected representatives make affect all of us. It’s in all of our best interests to vote and be politically active. »