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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Sikeston girl works as a congressional page

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Catharine Bill relives the events of her recent visit to the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as she thumbs through her photos
(photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Last summer, after hearing about the Congressional Page Program, 16-year-old Catharine Bill decided to do a little investigating of her own.

Bill, the daughter of Josh and Patricia Bill of Sikeston, looked into the program and received information from U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson. She filled out an application -- among other items in the lengthy process -- and waited for a reply.

Eventually Bill did receive a reply, which is why she spent three weeks last month on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

"It was definitely an honor to be around the leaders of our nation," Bill said. "Each day I would remind myself where I was by walking up the front staircase of the Capitol Building. It's not everyday that you get be at the Capitol."

During her time as a Page, Bill was given the opportunity to see several congressional leaders like Vice President Dick Cheney and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as an Australian prime minister, she said. Bill was a runner, and her duties included delivering envelopes and packages to various offices within the Capitol complex.

Bill's time at the Capitol wasn't all work and no play. She said she was able to sightsee in the evenings and on weekends. Even when she was working, things were still exciting due to the energetic atmosphere at the Capitol, she said.

Since Bill's experience on Capitol Hill, she admits it's very possible she's been bitten by the political bug.

"It's definitely given me something to think about," Bill said. "It's inspired me to look further into pursuing a career in politics and political life."

With the events of Sept. 11, it's understandable any parent would have concerns about their child working at the Capitol, and Bill's parents aren't the exception. However, Mrs. Bill said she had faith in Congress.

"If they really felt there was a problem, they would discontinue the program," Mrs. Bill, said. "Plus the Pages have 24-hour security."

Even though Mrs. Bill trusted the program, she and her husband did experience a scare when they went to pick their daughter up when the program ended. She recalled the last day Bill worked as a Page.

"We had just finished having lunch with her," Mrs. Bill said. "About an hour later, we heard the Capitol had been evacuated.

She continued: "It was such an odd feeling. It wasn't even on the news yet so we immediately called the Page dorm and learned Catharine was okay."

Pages are required to wear uniforms during the program. Males wear a navy blazer, long-sleeved white shirt, dark gray slacks, dark socks, dark shoes and a standard tie.

Females, like Bill, are required to wear a navy blazer, long-sleeved white blouse, dark gray skirt or pants, dark shoes, appropriate hose and a standard issue tie.

According to U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office, Pages are employees of the U.S. House of Representatives and are an important part of the legislative process.

The application for Pages is a very lengthy process, and massive paperwork is involved, Mrs. Bill said. "Her father and I are very proud of her," she said. "Catharine did everything on her own. She took the initiative to research the program and follow through the application process."

Emerson's office also states to be eligible for the summer program, applicants must be at least 16 years of age at the time of their appointment, have a "B" average or better and be willing to serve as a Page for approximately one month during the summer before or after their junior year of high school.

Applicants must submit a completed application to their Member of Congress -- senator or representative -- for review and recommendation. A school year program is also offered.

Along with the application form and transcript, Bill was required to present her social security number, a signed parental consent form, a 50-100 word essay on why she wanted to become a Republican Page, a resume of extra-curricular activities, three letters of recommendation and a letter of support from the sponsoring Republican Member of Congress.

After completing the program, Bill said she has a better idea of what members of Congress do. For instance, Bill said she knows what a typical day is like and how things are processed. She also realized that just because the House is in session, it doesn't mean that all of the Members are present. Only during voting sessions are all Members present, she said.

Bill suggests other eligible teens apply for the program. "Just go for it and look into it," she encouraged. "Don't be afraid to try something different."

For complete information about the Congressional Page Program, visit www. congressionalPage.org/index.html.