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Local student serves as messenger at Capitol

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By Angye Morrison

Jerome Maples is a senior at West Gadsden High School. He’s the student school board member for the Gadsden County School District.

And he’s gunning for your job, Gov. Crist.

Earlier this month, Maples served as a messenger at the Capitol, working with Rep. Alan Williams. He was one of 12 students working there during what Maples called a very hectic week.

“It was a great experience. It was a way to see the other side of politics and to see the Capitol, which is a very busy place,” he said.

While there, Maples and his peers delivered mail in the morning, and attended various committee meetings throughout the day. Each messenger worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

In addition, Maples was able to work closely with Williams, who said the future politician did a great job.

“He was well respected by his peers and members of the Legislature, and was very professional,” Willams said. “He was a leader before, but now he has a better sense of his own leadership. He got to meet people who he will stay in touch with throughout his life, and maybe one day he will sit in one of those same seats representing this area.”

While the messengers were there, Maples said they participated in a mock session, and he worked with some of them to develop their own bill, which they debated and got passed. The bill was to suspend the FCAT.

“In my opinion, it’s an overrated test. I did a survey and there’s a bill to replace the FCAT with exams, so we thought it would be a good bill,” he said.

The whole process has left Maples excited about his future in politics, and he hopes to bring that excitement back to his classmates at West Gadsden.

“I hope other students will want to be involved. They need to know they are voters and they need to know what elected officials do and what bills they are working on,” he said.

Maples has decided to attend Florida A&M University, so that he can stay close to home and continue to be involved in the community and in local politics.

“I can’t wait to hit government,” he said, laughing. “Now that I understand the process a little more, I see the impact locally and statewide.”

Maples has determined that he wants to work to impact the community and education, and says that although he’s still eyeing the top spot at the White House, he’s more interested first in become governor in Florida.

“I will be gunning for governor now,” he said.

Williams said he was proud to have Maples work with him.

“He exemplifies the type of student engagement and involvement we should see in all our students.”

The Florida House of Representatives has allowed interested middle and high school students to participate in the legislative process for more than 28 years. Each year, about 240 students serve in the House, and each member is allowed one page (middle school) and one messenger (high school).

For more information on how you can serve, e-mail Marie Shortz, program specialist, at pageandmessenger@myfloridahouse.gov, or call 850-487-2390.

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