PfISD students participate in page program at State Capitol
May 21, 2019
As the 86th Texas Legislature session comes to an end next week, 20 students from Pflugerville ISD will look back on their participation in the process as pages in State Sen. Kirk Watson’s office. The senator welcomed budding students to work in his office and provided an experience that taught them about how our government works.
“I really wanted to do this,” said Kiya Theobald, a seventh-grader at Kelly Lane Middle School. “I was really excited and I thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this. I was kind of nervous because I’d be doing important actions.”
Those important actions included 3-hour shifts in the Texas Senate, where the pages assist as Senate messengers, observe committee hearings or work the Senate floor.
Kimberly Roark serves PfISD as its elementary social studies coordinator and helped the District find students for this year’s program. She said it is an opportunity for young students to see their government in action and what happens behind the scenes.
“This is a wonderful chance for students to get an authentic lesson in civics by seeing some of the inner workings of our legislative system up close,” Roark said.
Each elementary campus may nominate up to two fourth- or fifth-grade students. Each middle school campus may nominate up to two seventh-grade students. The students represented 10 PfISD schools: Cele Middle, Copperfield Elementary, Dessau Middle, Highland Park Elementary, Kelly Lane Middle, Park Crest Middle, Riojas Elementary, Spring Hill Elementary, Timmerman Elementary and Westview Middle.
Sen. Watson said he looks forward to having students serve in his office each year. Their curiosity and passion for civil service is apparent in each student and he is happy to provide an opportunity for them to explore their interest in politics and government.
“One of my favorite parts of serving in the Texas Senate is hosting students from all around my district to be pages during the legislative session,” Watson said. “I strongly believe that students living in the shadow of our wonderful Capitol ought to have a chance to spend time in it and see our state government up close and in action. So, I try to give this opportunity to as many kids as I can.”
Cele Middle School seventh-grader Ja’Rohn Keyes said he enjoyed the program because it gave him a behind-the-scenes look into how our legislators work to write and pass bills at the Capitol during their session.
“It’s a really fun thing to do. It may be nerve-racking at some times, but it really pays off in the end,” Keyes said. “The most interesting part of it was just being on the Senate floor and seeing all the other bills get passed, seeing all the senators and the talking – that was really the most interesting because of how everyone was talking so politely. It was really different.”
Students were nominated by teachers who felt they would benefit from the program or represent their school well in such an important role in the program.
Keyes’ teacher Michael Kelley said he nominated him for the program because Keyes has shown an interest in state government and would appreciate the rare opportunity to see it in action. Plus, Kelley has seen how the page program has catapulted others into a career in politics.
“Early in my career I worked for three Texas state senators, during which time I met many former Senate pages who were inspired from their page experiences to return to work at the state Capitol,” Kelley said. “I hope Ja’Rohn will be similarly motivated from what he learned as a Senate page in the Watson Page Program to continue to pursue his goal of a public service career.”
Kelly Lane Texas History teacher John Powell said he nominated Theobald because she has shown an interest in learning more about government and her work ethic in his classroom.
“Kiya is a hardworking and conscientious student with a natural curiosity about history and the workings of our government, so she was an ideal candidate for Sen. Watson's page program,” Powell said.
That curiosity paid off for Theobald and other students as she said she now feels more secure about decisions being made by the state legislature, after seeing senators debate bills in person and discuss both sides of the issues.
Keyes echoed her sentiments and called it a valuable learning experience to see his government in action first-hand.
“I never saw that type of stuff happen,” Keyes said. “So, the first time that I saw it was with my own eyes, so that’s like a completely different experience.”
Both Theobald and Keyes said they would recommend participating in the page program to other students if they are given the opportunity. The chance to work in the Capitol and see how bills get passed was a learning experience you don’t get every day.
The students also learned about professional business attire with boys required to wear a coat and tie if they were to be on the Senate floor. Girls could wear a dress, skirt or dress pants with a blouse.
But they also learned comfortable shoes are a must.
“You get a lot of exercise,” Theobald said. “I climbed like 30 floors of stairs and I got to see parts of the Capitol where visitors don’t get to go. It was just really cool.”