Politics is in Stephanie Rodriguez’s future.
The 8th-grade student
at Miami Lakes Middle School got her first experience seeing government in action when she participated in the Florida House of Representatives’ Page and Messenger Program during the 2021 legislative session in Tallahassee.
In addition to page duties which Stephanie,
13, was assigned, she also put her debating skills to the test when she and other pages and messengers participated in a mock drafting of a bill.
For three days in March, Stephanie and 15 other middle school students were called upon by state representatives to retrieve documents while issues that impact the lives of Floridians were debated.
“We would be in the chamber while the House was in session,” Rodriguez said. “If a representative needed anything at any moment, the pages would get it for them.”
Stephanie was accompanied to the state capital by her mother, Yanet Rodriguez.
Stephanie said the pages and messengers also led the Pledge of Allegiance at start of the session.
Then the youth volunteers got the opportunity to debate during the mock bill exercise, modeled on prior legislation. The topic: Invasive species, and whether to remove wild hogs and monkeys which could damage property or carry disease.
Stephanie said the kids engaged in a mock committee session, imitated the actions of previous legislators and voted on different versions of a bill.
Stephanie has already begun acquiring debating skills.
She is a member of her school’s Legal Studies Magnet Program which was created by Social Studies teacher Lisa Deyarza.
Deyarza’s students have won We Are the People contests on district, state and national levels.
Stephanie said her favorite part of the page program was helping representatives and, “being able to learn more about what goes on in our legislative session.”
For their participation in the program, the names of each page and messenger appeared in the House of Representatives “Journal” publication.
“Having my name recorded in the House Journal was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life,” Stephanie said.
The experience has sharpened her desire for a career as an attorney and to work in politics.
“I want to become a state representative,” she said. “I like politics because you can make a difference in people’s lives.”
Deyarza said she contacted Fla. Rep. Thomas Fabricio, R-Miramar, who represents the district, and recommended Stephanie for the state program be- cause she has participated in the Legal Studies Academy since sixth grade.
“It was wonderful to have Stephanie Rodriguez as a page here at the Florida House,” Fabricio told The Miami Laker. “As a part of the program, Miss Rodriguez assisted the members during their floor session, delivering messages and helping with inter- communications.
“The Page and Messenger Program dates back to 1865 and gives school children an insight into how their government functions.
“Many people who went on to become members of the House of Representatives participated in the Page and Messenger program when they were younger,” Fabricio said.
Yanet Rodriguez said Stephanie’s passion and determination, with the support of her teacher, have allowed her to flourish as a student.
“My husband and I will always cherish the unique experience our daughter had serving as a page at the Florida House of Representatives,” Rodriguez said. “She had the opportunity to witness the legislative branch of our government, which is of such interest to her.”