Matoaca Middle student serves at state Senate

For Matoaca Middle School student Nathan Berry, serving at the General Assembly runs in the family.

“My dad was actually a page back in 1976,” said Nathan, who is in seventh grade. “He was talking about it to me.”

Based on what he heard, Nathan, 13, wanted to have that experience and learn about the process of making laws, he said. So, he applied and was accepted to the Senate’s Page/Messenger Program as a messenger.

“My social studies teacher was very excited,” he said, but many of his friends didn’t know about the program until he told them what it was, he said.

Gwendolyn F. Bailey, deputy clerk of the Senate, said a total of 39 students were participating in the Senate program this year. There were a lot of very good applicants this year, she said, and they tried to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to serve.

A typical day begins with roll call at about 8:15 a.m., Nathan said, and the students write down their schedules, which depend on what job they have. Some jobs last all day, he said, while some last for only a few hours. After work, it’s back to the hotel, he said.

Along with opportunities to learn about Virginia’s government, Nathan has also had the chance to meet students from different areas of the state, he said. Getting to know students from other places has been fun, and it’s been exciting to meet people with similar interests, he said.

Though he hasn’t tried all of the potential jobs yet, one does stand out.

“One of the things I really like to do is be in the committee meetings,” he said. “I like to hear what all the different senators have to say.”

Nathan would like to see how the General Assembly is going to handle the economy, he said, but, in general, he likes “to hear what the different senators have to say about the problems.”
He hopes to learn more about government and how laws are made, he said. Such knowledge will come in handy, he said.

“Well, first of all, it makes civics a lot easier,” he said, and if he were to someday go into politics he would know how the system works. Also, the program is “a nice way to gain social skills, because you have to talk to a lot of people,” he said.

Though politics is an interest, Nathan’s future is far from set – “I’m only in seventh grade,” he said. He’s good at math and might want to be an engineer, he said, and he’s also fond of history.

When asked why he enjoys history, he recalled something his teacher said: “If we learn from the past and all our mistakes, we won’t do it again.”

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