Touchet student Jacob LaRoque spent a week in Olympia as a legislative page for Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, during the 2012 regular session.
Photo by Suhyoon Cho/Washington State Legislature
TOUCHET — For Jacob LaRoque, getting up early was the best and worst part of his job.
The Touchet eighth-grader served as a legislative page for Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, during the 2013 regular session, spending a week in Olympia learning the ins and outs of lawmaking.
Near the end, the pages — 14- to 16-year-olds from around the state who are sponsored by a senator or representative — get to write their own bills in teams and hold mock hearings. LaRoque paired with a student from Seattle and co-wrote a gun bill, with a little compromise.
LaRoque said his partner wanted to ban certain types of weapons entirely, but he was able to convince him just to regulate ammunition and agree to more stringent background checks.
Though he didn’t personally agree with everything in the final bill, LaRoque enjoyed the process of working with someone who has views different from his.
“It made me feel kind of glad. My partner and I really didn’t agree, but we came to what we thought it should be,” he said. “He wanted to cut guns out period, and I like to go hunting, I’m a member of the Walla Walla Gun Club. But we agreed on checks so you can’t just go buy a gun and do something crazy.”
Pages apply during the fall and must have permission from their parents and school. They spend a week in Olympia while the Legislature is in session, work full-time, and are paid $35 per day.
LaRoque said he was surprised by the hours, which required him to be in the office at 7:45 a.m. and stay until 5 p.m. every day.
“At the beginning, I didn’t know what it would be like,” he said. “I didn’t know how much it would be like a real job. We were getting there at the same time the real workers were getting there.”
During his week LaRoque did everything from deliver mail to sit in on actual legislative sessions. School groups visited the capitol every day, and LaRoque enjoyed seeing the teachers tell their classes about the pages who were working during sessions.
LaRoque said connecting with other student pages was a highlight.
“It helped me with social things, becoming more social with people you don’t know,” he said.
He also spent some one-on-one time with Nealey, who was born in Walla Walla and grew up on a farm in Whitman County.
“I think he’s really nice. He was kind of raised in the country, raised on a farm, so I could relate to him,” said LaRoque.
LaRoque looks back fondly on his week spent wearing a suit and running around to make the most of half-hour lunch breaks. He said he would recommend the page program to other students, and is considering a career in government, working as a legislative assistant.
“I think I would enjoy working in that type of environment,” he said. “I think it would be really fun.”
Rachel Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-526-8363.