This past legislative session, I was given an amazing opportunity to intern at the State House with my town’s representative, Gay Grant, a Gardiner Democrat.

I learned something new every day. I discovered a whole different side of myself during my time there. Juggling an internship on top of school, a job and other activities proved to be a challenge, but I made it work and learned a lot about keeping myself organized.

I didn’t really know what to expect of my internship at first, but once I figured out how to work the Legislature’s website, read the calendar and figure out what was going on and where, I became pretty independent. Most of my days were spent observing work sessions, public hearings and House sessions. I kept track of certain bills that were important to me, most of them having a focus on women’s or animal rights, typing notes about what I heard being discussed.

I came into the State House knowing I would be surrounded by experienced adults with different opinions and life experiences from mine, and I learned quickly that even though I didn’t share the same thoughts as some people, they were bringing good points to the table.

This made me look at issues and topics through a different set of eyes and understand things with a new perspective.

I started to learn what aspects of my time there I liked and didn’t like. There were times I felt confused, overwhelmed and a little uncomfortable, and times it felt awkward and a little daunting for me to be the only kid in the room. Sometimes I was only one of a few women in the room, making me feel further out of place. I quickly got used to this, however, and eventually became comfortable with it. Spending two or three days a week at the State House for several months, getting to see how my local government works in person rather than in a classroom or through a textbook, was irreplaceable to me as a student.

I realized quickly that the activism side of politics was what drew me in. One of my favorite parts of interning this session was getting the chance to observe and interact with committed and energetic people who care deeply about the work they do or the issues they speak to legislators about. Looking back on it, I feel as this realization set the tone for how I viewed my time at the State House. It’s pretty cool to think about how one day I attended a press conference for a women’s rights group, another day I had a conversation with the attorney general, while watching House sessions and public hearings for bills in between. Experiences like that leave a lasting impression.

I became so familiar and comfortable with the State House that I can navigate it very well, and felt intelligent and confident to be able to help adults twice my age with directions.

I came into this internship with plans about going to college with a major in political science, and I am coming out with a sense of hands-on government experience, which inspires me to pursue a political career. The energy and hard work that goes into creating a state budget encouraged my love and fascination for politics. Because of this, I am very grateful for this life-changing opportunity that was granted to me.

Avery Page, 17, lives in Farmingdale and is entering her senior year at Hall-Dale High School.

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