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Williamsport High senior spends week as page

February 22, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- She's seen two protest demonstrations and a hearing where the merits of the death penalty were debated.

And that was in just her first three days as a page to the Maryland General Assembly. Laurel Kays, 17, a Williamsport High School senior, will spend two weeks in Annapolis as part of the program, and finished up her first week Friday.

She'll return in the 12th week of the legislative session, which begins March 30.

Laurel's older sister, Holly Kays, went through the program two years ago and enjoyed it, leading Laurel to apply when the opportunity was mentioned by one of her teachers in October.

"I really enjoy politics," said Laurel, who lives in Fairplay.

Part of her page duties include fetching water, coffee and tea for members of the state Senate before the session begins, handling paperwork and keeping things organized for lawmakers.

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If senators need anything during a session, they motion to Laurel or other pages who get what they need -- anything from water to copies of a document.

After the Senate session has ended, Laurel and the other pages are free to watch committee hearings or explore Annapolis. She said she enjoys the free time, which is a change from high school.

Laurel spends a lot of her time watching. She stood for almost three hours Wednesday watching Gov. Martin O'Malley and others testify in support of a repeal of the death penalty. She said she stayed so long in order to view some of the opposition.

"It was just really interesting to hear the different sides ... and see it up close," Laurel said. "It's interesting to actually see it happen."

While she is missing school to be in Annapolis and will have to make up work, Laurel said she's learning a lot about state government and reinforcing her desire to study politics in college.

"Its definitely better to learn by seeing than out of a book," she said.

Laurel said she plans to study political science, music and perhaps astronomy in college, and would like to attend the University of Maryland at College Park.

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