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An insider's look at government

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Screaming sirens, flashing lights, and security guards with ready guns were charging down the hallways shouting "Get out. Get out."

Washington, D.C. air space was violated and evacuation of the U.S. Capitol was ordered.

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That was the summer experience of Bethany Dorobiala, a Woodbury High School senior, on her third day working as a Page for Lake Elmo's U.S. Representative Mark Kennedy in Washington, D.C.

We were having dinner in the Capitol dining room, she said, when the sirens went off and "women were told to take off their heels and run." Streams of people were running down the streets and when the black automobile of the Speaker of the House whizzed by, she knew it was for real. It was not a drill.

"It was so scary and I was afraid to look back for fear the Capitol building would not be there," Dorobiala said.

But, somehow, she felt safe because everything was pecisely organized.

"Guards were everywhere directing people. We ran for two blocks and gathered outside the Page dormitory, and after two hours were allowed to return."

Dorobiala has always been interested in government and how it works, taking related courses in high school and has been involved in the Youth in Government program for six years. This year she hopes to run for secretary of state when youth takes over the Minnesota state capitol in January (while legislators are on break).

Her "how to apply" advice to become a Page came from her sister Brooke, who also works in the Capitol. After a six-month process of filling out forms, getting teacher recommendations, writing a paper and getting sponsorship from Congressman Mark Kennedy, it was time to shop for the "uniform."

All pages wear navy blue blazers and grey skirts, or trousers for boys. Finding a skirt without a slit took some looking, added Dorobiala. The navy tie with red and white stripes was supplied by the government.

Of the 75 pages in the House, most are junior and senior high students. They worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the House session beginning at 10 a.m. After the Pages open the doors, the person carrying the staff enters, followed by the Speaker, and the House is in session.

Their typical day was a lot of "runs," Dorobiala explained, "delivering messages from place to place in several different buildings, clocking about 10 miles each day."

One of her favorite "runs" was delivering American flags that were flown over the Capitol. A new flag, she explained, is flown every other minute and then given to members of congress for their constituents.

A number of exciting "firsts" occurred during her three weeks as a page. She witnessed the funeral procession and the lying in state of former president Ronald Reagan, and while President Harmid Karzai of Afganistan addressed a joint session, Pages were allowed to fill the empty chairs.

While in Woodbury, she wrote a paper on national energy policy and was thrilled to hear the issue debated on the House floor. And that "run" was special because she delivered the energy bill.

Her goal is to work in government, "not necessarily politics," she says. But interning in Washington would be exciting.

This fall Dorobiala, whose parents are Chris and Bob Dorobiala, is completing her high school senior year by attending an advanced high school course program at the University of Minnesota. Of course her favorite courses include political science.

Right now the upcoming election will find her knocking on doors and handing out literature and she adds, "putting stickers on kids." And she says, "I love it."

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