Turning the page for Congress

Natalie Queally could be recognizable on television Tuesday.

While the rest of her friends begin their semester at Glendale High School, the 16-year-old junior will take the term off to live and work as a congressional page in Washington, D.C.

"It's weird that I'm just sitting at home," Natalie said before her flight. "I don't know if anybody notices that I won't go to school with them, but they'll notice eventually when I'm on C-SPAN."

The Congressional Page program is no vacation. Natalie will begin school every day at 6:45 a.m. before her House of Representatives shift begins after school ends at 11:30 a.m. The position is paid.

"I read this thing about we're not supposed to use Facebook or something," she said. "That was scary for me. Hopefully I don't think I will give away any political secrets."

Members of Congress and their staffs rely on pages for communication and administrative duties. Pages answer phones and hang coats, but they are also among the select staffers on Capitol Hill who can linger around the floor of the House or the U.S. Senate.

"These bright young people play an important role in the life and work of Congress," Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who nominated Natalie for the position, said in an e-mail. "The page program is a great way for students to get their feet wet and gain valuable hands-on experience, serving as a stepping stone for future learning and civic engagement."

The politicking is one thing, but the 16-year-old said she's eager to test her independence. It'll be the farthest she's been from home, she said.

"The most I've ever done is flying with my brother," Natalie said. "And I'm not going to know anyone there. I've never been away from my home for that long."

Mother Linda Queally said her daughter is adventurous and that the opportunity is one of a kind.

"I think she was looking for new experience," Queally said. "I don't know she's sure that politics is her ultimate goal, but I know she's interested to see how it works."

More than the political horse-trading, Natalie said she's most excited about meeting teenagers from across the U.S. who also serve as pages.

"I have my interests, but [politics is] not the reason I'm going, really," she said. "It's something totally different than what I know, and most people would never do something like this until college. It's cool you're working for the government and everything.

"I don't want to give away too much, but I'm happy I'll be on the Democratic side."

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