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An unusual honor for a Cleveland High School senior -- indeed, for any student in the state

RITA A. LEONARD - Cleveland High senior Nicolas Avendano spent this years spring term as a U.S. Senate Page, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley. Sellwood resident Nicolas Avendano, a senior at Cleveland High School, spent spring term 2018 in Washington, D.C. as a U. S. Senate Page, sponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley.

Nicholas had a chance to be immersed in the current political climate, learning about daily affairs, meeting top government officials, and seeing many sights in the nation's capital.

Avendano was introduced to the idea by his CHS Social Studies teacher, Sadie Adams. "She told me it was a cool opportunity, and that only 30 Senate Pages were selected each term across the nation," he says. "I applied last fall, and was notified of my acceptance by the end of the year. While I don't necessarily plan on a career in politics, the subject interests me."

Senate Pages are held to high academic and moral standards, and wear an identifiable uniform – a navy blue suit and tie. The paid job also includes keeping up with regular school studies for the term.

"Pages live in the Senate Page Residence above the Senate Page School," explains Avendano. "I took classes there in Math, Science, English, and Social Studies, which were harder than my CHS classes. We usually worked from about 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., which made it a full day, since our curfew was 9 p.m. on school nights."

Pages serve in the daily operation of the Senate under the party of their appointing Senator (Merkley is a Democrat). They sit along the steps on either side of the President Pro Tempore's desk, available to assist members on the floor. Their duties consist mainly of delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol complex, although they also retrieve lecterns, easels, and water for Senators and clerks.

"The most exciting thing about the job was just getting to be in that environment," remarks Avendano."For instance, I once ran into Senator Bernie Sanders in an elevator; and I also met Vice President Pence when he was coming in to cast a vote. And, during the State of the Union address, I was just a few feet from the President."

"The coolest thing for me was meeting French President Emmanuel Macron on a diplomatic mission. The Senate staff were very helpful and welcoming. The Senate Complex becomes your 'Second Home' during the duration of your tour [of duty]."

Among the perks of the appointment are being with teenagers from all around the country, and the opportunity to use the Library of Congress and other facilities in the Capitol. "We also went on tours of many local attractions," recalls Avendano, "Such as Arlington National Cemetery and The White House. It was interesting to learn that Senator Merkley had spent time as an American Field Service student in Ghana. While I'm currently taking some courses at Portland Community College, I too will soon be spending nine months as an AFS student in Ghana."

The world is full of opportunities for young people, if they work at pursuing and attaining them. In a related incident last year, Avendano was chosen as a Rotary Foreign Exchange Student by the Southeast Portland Rotary Club, but was ultimately unable to accept that honor due to being offered the position as Senate Page.

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