Bibb students headed to Washington for stints as pages

A job as a messenger may not sound exciting. But for two Bibb County high school students, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Brandon Hill, a junior at Northeast High School, and Brianne Bower, a junior at Howard High, have been selected to work in the congressional Page Program. The two students will leave Macon at the end of August and spend the rest of the semester in Washington, D.C.

The two students were appointed to the program by a committee put together by U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall’s office.

Bower still can’t believe her good fortune.

“I only found out (last week) and I haven’t had time to digest it,” she said. “But I feel like I’ve been working toward it my whole life. It feels really good — I don’t know how else to say it.”

Hill, who would like to pursue a career in government and politics, said being a page will give him a first-hand view of how the system works.

“It’s very exciting,” the 15-year-old said. “It’s just a great opportunity. (Government) is one subject that really interests me. So the opportunity to go do something like this, I can’t pass it up.”

Marshall, D-Ga., said it’s a great opportunity for a high school student.

“I think these two kids are great,” he said. “I think they’ll do a great job representing Middle Georgia. It will be a wonderful experience for them.”

Both students are among the best at their respective schools, officials said.

Julia Daniely, an assistant principal at Northeast, said Hill emerged as a leading contender to represent the school early on.

“(The program) wants students who take the initiative and show initiative,” she said. “They want someone involved in the community and school activities. ... He was the only one who really researched what (the program) was.”

Hill is ranked at the top of his class at Northeast and is a member of the National Honor Society and the math club. He was a finalist in the Rotary International Speech Competition and was a nominee for the Governor’s Honors Program.

Bower, 16, has also excelled both inside and outside the classroom, said Karen Yarbrough, the principal at Howard.

“She’s an outstanding student,” Yarbrough said. “She ranks sixth in her class, carrying a very heavy course load. She’s taking all (Advanced Placement) classes. She also works very hard outside of school. She’s got a great personality and is very outgoing, with good values. She’ll represent our school system very well.”

Among Bower’s activities are serving as vice president of the Beta Club and a Student Council representative.

She also works four part-time jobs, including serving as part of Mercer University’s School of Medicine standardized patient testing program.

In that program, Bower acts as a patient, presenting a set of symptoms for the medical students to diagnose.

Bower said she ultimately wants to become a physician.

Nationally, about 70 students are selected to the Page Program every semester. The students go to school at the Library of Congress and then go to work in the Legislature, delivering messages and legislative materials to different offices.

They also answer phones and work on the floor when Congress is in session.

Daniely and Yarbrough said the students have had their schedules adjusted to coordinate with the classes the Library of Congress offers.

Hill and Bower were both scheduled to take AP Chemistry this year, for example, but since it isn’t offered, they will take the class when they get back.

Hill said the trip north would mark the first time he’s ever spent any significant time from home. He’s been to Washington once several years ago as part of a family vacation.

“I’ve never really spent any time away from home,” he said. “Am I nervous? No.”

Bower, on the other hand, has served as a People To People ambassador and has traveled to Canada and Europe by herself.

She traveled to Washington this year for President Obama’s inauguration.

Both of the students said they are eager to see how government operates from a different perspective than what most people see.

“I’d rather see how things actually work,” Bower said. “I want to see all the little details, see how things work, what most people don’t get to see.”

“It’s so amazing to experience,” Hill said. “Who at 16 can say they have regular contact (with members of Congress) in their experience? To be regularly involved in (congressional) sessions is an astronomical experience for 16.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.