ONTARIO — On May 29, nearly 200 Ontario High School students walked the aisle to accept their diplomas. One, Victoria Roberts, was graduating this spring as a junior.
On top of graduating a year early, Roberts was able to spend a large chunk of her junior year in Washington, D.C., as a member of the U.S. Senate Page Program with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
Roberts was one of 33 total students from across the country who were selected to be a part of the program, which brings high school juniors to the capitol, where they took classes and worked in the U.S. Capitol building every day. She was there from September to January.
According to her father, Jason Roberts, the program included the pages taking college preparatory classes in the United States Senate School in the basement of the dorm building.
In classes, Victoria Roberts said she saw a huge difference between the different types of schools.
“The biggest thing was the education difference there,” she said. “There is such a difference between the public education system and some of those top-of-the-line boarding schools.”
After classes, which were in the morning, the pages would head over to the capitol and work until the end of the day. Their work was that of administrative assistants, Jason Roberts said, as they would hand deliver communications between senators and help set up committee rooms and the Senate floor.
During her time at the capitol, Victoria Roberts had the opportunity to attend many historic events, including the laying of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush in early December.
“I was able to be there and watch the memorial,” she said.
Roberts was also there to work during the Brett Kavanaugh hearing for his Supreme Court nomination, met President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and worked directly with junior Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Md., and senior Senator Chuck Shumer, D-N.Y., among other democrats.
Roberts was also there during the historic government shutdown that spanned from December of 2018 through January of 2019. She said the shutdown ended just after she left the program. During the shutdown, Roberts said the Senate would hold hearings where they would hear why the shutdown needed to end, something Roberts said she wouldn’t forget.
“Every day, we would hear stories about how the shutdown was affecting people and that was really heartbreaking,” she said.
Roberts was alerted to the U.S. Senate Page Program with Jeff Merkley when her mother saw a post for it in The Argus Observer in April of 2018.
“My mom reads the paper religiously,” she said. Roberts’ mother, Paula, teaches at Ontario High School. “I just filled it out and they asked me for an interview.”
“The highly competitive program provides students with first-hand experience of Senate operations,” the posting from Merkley read. “Pages play a critical role in the daily work of the U.S. Senate by helping to deliver correspondence, legislative material, amendments and bills around the Congressional complex and during Congressional proceedings. Only 30 page positions are available among 100 senators.”
At the time, Roberts said that she wasn’t really sure that politics was the right thing for her.
“Not really,” she said when asked if she always wanted to get into politics. “I mean, I always thought it was an option. I didn’t really think I’d get [the page position]. It’s a prestigious position and I had the honor of going to the Capitol. I really credit the experience with me wanting to go back.”
In the fall, Roberts will be attending the University of Idaho, where she plans to study economics. She said she is very passionate about civil rights and civil liberties, including the problem of voter suppression in this country.
“I know it pushed me in the direction, career wise,” she said. “I have a plan now and that program helped me get there.”