A glimpse into the government

Sequim High School ninth-grader Kiehl Sundt first met Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, a volunteer firefighter for Clallam County Fire District 3, when the latter charged onto the Sundt property to put out a backyard blaze.

After extinguishing the fire, Sundt said, Van De Wege encouraged the high school student to apply for the page program in Olympia, in which students from throughout the state spend two weeks experiencing democracy up-close.

Following Van De Wege’s suggestion, Sundt said he had to go through a rigorous application process and finally was informed of his acceptance in December, just about a month before his session that began Jan. 21.

“I ran notes and parcels to and from legislative offices,” Sundt said of his time in Olympia. “I got to see state and local government in action in the first person.”

Sundt said he also got to meet several members of the state Legislature and spend a considerable amount of time with Van De Wege.

“He was very open,” Sundt said of the representative. “He explained a lot of things to me.”

The experience was more than just a job — Sundt lived with a host family in Olympia — Al and Heidi Audette and daughters Emma and Audrey — and a roommate.

“The Audettes were great. It wasn’t bad at all to be away from home,” Sundt said, adding that he also had spent two weeks on his own on the East Coast. Sundt said the session was especially crowded, with 28 other students also paging.

“I got to meet a lot of other motivated youth,” he said. “I met a lot of people.”

The page program, which has been ongoing since 1891, has planned activities for the middle- and high-school students in addition to their assisting the representatives.

“They attend Page School and write their own bill and then learn the process it (would go) through to become law,” reads a statement from House Democratic Caucus communications specialist Laura Thoren. “The students learn the process by which bills are created and passed.”

To Van De Wege, hosting Sundt and fellow Olympic Peninsula student Sarah Shea of Port Townsend was important, as well.

“It’s always having a pleasure having civic-minded students like Kiehl and Sarah with us at the House of Representatives during session,” Van De Wege said. “Learning about this process first-hand will always be a valuable experience for them.”

How to be a page

To serve as a page, students must:

• Be at least 14 years old but not yet 17

• Have permission from their school as well as parents and/or guardians

• Be sponsored by a member of the House or Senate

For more information, contact Rep. Kevin Van De Wege’s office at 786-7916 or visit the page program home page at InternProgram/.

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