Sydney Fehr has participated in a lot during her time at North Tama. Key player on the state tournament basketball team? Check. National Honor Society member? Check. Now Fehr can cross one more thing off her list: learning about Iowa government up close and personal.
Fehr spent much of her spring semester as a House Page for the Iowa House of Representatives, learning first hand how politics in the state work, and gaining valuable connections that will help her in her professional pursuits, whatever they may be, down the line.
Iowa House Pages have many responsibilities during their time in Des Moines, the first and foremost being the adaptation to surviving in the working world. Pages are thrust into the often cutthroat business of politics as 17- and 18-year-olds, living on their own for the first time. Pages come from all across the state of Iowa, and have a myriad of responsibilities once they arrive in the state capitol.
North Tama’s Sydney Fehr served as an Iowa House Page during the 84th General Assembly in 2012, assisting with many aspects of legislative business and making connections that will last a lifetime. Here, Fehr (center) poses with Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
For Fehr, entrance into the program came from an interest in politics, the encouragement of a teacher and the experiences of a family member.
"My aunt was a former page, so she had talked about it," Fehr said. "I didn't really know much about it, so I looked into it and talked to my government teacher, Mr. Moss, and found out no one had applied for it in recent years."
"I knew I had an interest in politics, and just kind of took a chance with it," Fehr said.
The application process was stringent, as the students are expected to be independent and contribute immediately upon their arrival in the capitol.
"I had to send in a full resume of everything I'd done and write and essay on why I wanted to be a page," Fehr said. "I also had to write an essay on responsibility, since you're living on your own down there, as well as provide three letters of recommendation."
Fehr arrived in Des Moines in March and worked for the 84th General Assembly until the session convened in mid-April. She wore many hats during her time there, doing everything from handling internal correspondance to distributing bills and amendments. Pages are also routinely involved in staffing committee meetings.
Despite the hectic rush of legislative life, Fehr thoroughly enjoyed her time there, and the variety of work it allowed her to do.
"It was a lot of fun because it was real work experience, I worked a full day from 8-4, sometimes in the evening from 8-midnight," Fehr said. "The work hours could be crazy but it was a lot of fun."
"I learned a lot down there too, as I got to work with all the legislators, the chief clerk and speaker of the house," Fehr said. "So there were lots of opportunities down there."
Among the opportunities was the chance to make connections that can help in building a resume and contact list for future opportunities - something Fehr made the most of.
"All of the pages this year were really awesome, we had a really good group," Fehr said. "I really liked working with Rep. Horbach, who is my representative."
"It was really nice getting to know him and seeing him in the chamber, as he is really a driving force there," Fehr said. "It's nice to have a representative from your own district who is so influential."
That's not to say the experience was without its challenges, however. Fehr got to see firsthand how the working world works, and in a field as often contentious as politics can be, that's a lot for an 18-year-old to handle.
"I loved it down there, so being away from home wasn't too bad," Fehr said. "But I can see how balancing your personal life with politics can be tough, as it's definitely a business down there where they're trying to get things done."
Fehr went on to express how grateful she was for the opportunity, and what it meant to her.
"I went into the position kind of interested and it gave me so much insight into the way everything works in politics, and how our government in Iowa works," Fehr said. "It also gave me a leg up in how to communicate with people, as they're business professionals, but they're also regular people and want to make a difference."
"It was definitely a growing-up experience, I think I have a lot greater sense of civil duty now that I know how it works," Fehr said.
The Iowa House of Representatives accepts applications for pages every year, and any student who completes the required application, essays and recommendations is eligible for consideration. For more information on the program, visit www.legis.iowa.gov.
As Fehr proved, with some hard work and the will to succeed, students can gain valuable real-world experience that will last a lifetime. And having a little fun is just an added bonus.
"I want to encourage other high schoolers to apply for the page program. You have to be a junior or senior, but it's a really great experience and an opportunity that a lot of people will never get to experience," Fehr said. "Over half of the other pages I met weren't even interested in politics, they just thought it looked like a fun job!"