SAN DIEGO — Not many San Diegans get within a few feet of the President of the United States or get to work as a messenger for the Speaker of the House. But Marci Kevane did.
The Granite Hills High School student spent the first semester of her junior year--last fall--on Capitol Hill. There, school was just a small part of her education, and for five months she was at the hub of the national political hustle and bustle.
The 16-year-old was chosen to be one of 66 congressional pages. Her application consisted of several written essays on her reasons for wanting the position and a few informal meetings with U.S. Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego).
This was the second time Bates was named to assign a page from his district, he said.
"I think it is a real worthwhile experience for the student," Bates said from his Washington office. "And, hopefully, it could stimulate their interest in politics."
Although Kevane was ready to come home at the end of her Washington tour in January, she said she definitely benefited from the program.
"It took some adjusting to at first," Kevane said. "I'd never been away from home for that long. But I made a lot of friends and loved being there. Washington, D.C., is a very interesting town. Everywhere you go, you see people you know.
"Some of my most memorable experiences were seeing President Reagan at the State of the Union address, and watching the Philippine and Brazilian presidents speak. It's always exciting when diplomats come to talk on Capitol Hill. It's really amazing how tight the security is."
As well as attending classes between 6 and 10 a.m., Kevane's page duties consisted of running messages between congressmen--that's how she got to meet Speaker Thomas (Tip) O'Neill--and answering the telephone.
"Academically, I got an average education," she said. "But I learned a lot about living out on my own, managing my own money and buying groceries."
Kevane was paid $823 a month but had to pay $300 a month for her dormitory room. She said she spent the rest of her money on food and entertainment. Although she was forced to make many adult decisions, Kevane said, she has more freedom at home.
"We had a very strict curfew at the dorm," she said. "On weekdays we had to be in by 10 sharp, and on weekends 12. If I come back a couple of minutes late at home it's no big deal, but in the dorm, if I was even a minute late, they would put you on restriction."
The rigid rules didn't seem to bother Kevane, who said she wants to go to a "major" college on the East Coast--perhaps Harvard or Georgetown--and major in political science when she graduates from high school. The varsity cheerleader carries a 3.5 grade point average and seems confident about being accepted to the college of her choice.
How will Kevane run things when she's a politician?
"I know how Congress works from being there," she said. "But I wouldn't change anything. I think everything is run the way it should be."