By Leonela Tasé Sueiro
On April 19, six of our teen Club members along with Ms. Cassie, our Leadership Programs Specialist, arrived at the steps of the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee. They spent a week aiding our state representatives during their Regular Session as part of the House Page & Messenger Program, at no cost to them.
The House Page & Messenger Program dates back to 1865, and it consists of students coming to the Capitol during one week of the 60-day Regular Session, their busiest time of year, as either a Page or a Messenger for our 120 representatives. In recognition of the hard work these students do and the great help they offer, they get to see their names in the Journal of the House as an official record of their time spent there.
The Club sent six of our most passionate, actionable, fearless advocates to represent us. They were Conor, Quinn, Abigail, Cobie, Juna and Jorge, our 2021 Florida Youth of the Year. These students were selected by Ms. Cassie based on their attendance of the Advocacy 101 program that runs after school, or because they are affiliated with a Club program that involves social issues and civic engagement such as Youth Council, STAR Leadership Training, or the Superintendent Student Advisory Council.
Quinn, who is a junior at Sarasota High School and a future pediatric oncologist, recognizes that their experience was a unique one. She feels privileged to have had her voice heard by numerous legislators from all walks of life and learn their stories as well. While at the Capitol, Quinn didn’t feel like ‘just another teen,’ she felt empowered by her Club training and her passion for advocacy.
“There is a constant stigma around teenagers, with the perception that we pay no mind to what occurs around us, and that we do not have the ability to present a valid opinion due to our maturity. However, I did not feel this was the case at the Capitol. Every representative was receptive and excited to see our interest in the policies they enact. It is rare to be in the position we were in during this program, and it was an honor to have my voice heard,” Quinn said.
Similarly, Conor, a junior at Sarasota High School, found so much value and inspiration during his week at the Capitol that he wishes to see the program applied at a national level!
“I firmly believe the current government can benefit from events like these as well, because it is critical that politicians hear the guiding voice of our brilliant young minds, and it can also offer them an insightful outside perspective on current events,” said Conor, who aspires to become a lawyer and eventually run for public office and fight for the interests of his community.
Conor also credits The Club’s Advocacy 101 program with opening his eyes to the immeasurable importance of standing up for what is right, as well as how to build a platform to do so, which prepared him for his unforgettable week at the Florida Capitol.
Normally, the students in the Page & Messenger Program also have the opportunity to tour the Governor’s Mansion, the Florida Supreme Court, the Museum of Florida History, and the Historic Capitol, as well while also attending committee meetings, House sessions in the Chamber, and press conferences with notable people or celebrities. However, due to the pandemic, they were only able to witness government in session and be on the house floor almost throughout the week. But, no complaints here!
Our Club teens also shared their favorite part of their week in Tallahassee, although it was difficult to choose among so many unforgettable experiences.
“My favorite part of the event was the moment I spent sitting awestruck on the sacred house floor, captivated by the event I was witnessing that would affect so many of my fellow Floridians,” Conor said.
“My favorite part of this event was the teens I travelled with. All equally as ambitious, all with different experiences and backgrounds, it really was inspiring to see everyone put themselves in a position to succeed, gaining knowledge and connections over the short week. I am incredibly excited to see where we all end up, and the change we will inevitably make,” Quinn added.
Quinn is right! She and her peers will eventually become our community’s change makers, if they so wish, and perhaps host their own Pages and Messengers one day. They will accomplish any goal they set for themselves because The Club provides them with the necessary tools and skills to do so.
Do you want to gain the tools and skills to accomplish all your goals, too? Come to The Club and join any program to become a leader today! Click here to apply.