New chapter for page

[attach]5358[/attach]While most grade 8 students were sitting in class this fall, Sebastian Gayowsky was walking the halls of Queen’s Park.

Gayowsky, a student at Bessborough Drive Elementary and Middle School in Leaside, served for three weeks as a legislative page in Ontario’s Parliament. He and 22 other students from across the province were selected to participate in the more than 100-year-old program.

Pages typically serve terms of three to six weeks and act as messengers for the MPPs.

“The chamber doesn’t really function without the pages because they deliver all the documents,” said page coordinator, Erin Tedford. “They are permitted to be on the floor in the chamber whereas you need a special authorization in order to do that.”

Program applicants must submit an essay explaining why they are qualified to participate. Gayowsky said he thinks his experience performing similar duties as an altar server helped him stand out from nearly 1,000 other submissions.

In order to be considered for the program, students must also have an academic average of 80 percent or higher because of the amount of school the pages miss. However, they spend part of their time at Queen’s Park taking classes in legislative process and mathematics.

“During the morning I would be getting the MPPs water or delivering messages,” Gayowsky said. “In the afternoon I would either be doing the same or be in class.

“People think that it might be boring it’s a lot more fun that you’d ever expect.”

Gayowsky got to speak with Premier Dalton McGuinty and also saw TV personality Rick Mercer in the gallery during a debate on the premier’s anti-bullying legislation. He said his favourite moments came during Question Period.

“It was kind of amusing to see how they reacted to things that the other party would say,” he said. “Sometimes they got a little bit out of hand but it was pretty interesting.”

Although he admits he did not have a huge interest in politics before participating in the program Gayowsky said being a page might have changed his career path.

“I wanted to be a lawyer before but now I’m slightly moving towards having a political career,” he said. “I want to try to be a page at the federal level so I can get a taste of what they both are like.”

Pages in Ottawa’s House of Commons are university students so Gayowsky may get a chance to fulfil his stated wish, especially after impressing those at Queen’s Park.

“He set a wonderful example for his peers while he was here,” Tedford said. “He did everything that was asked of him and a huge amount of problem solving and thinking on his feet. He shows a maturity really beyond his age, like many of them do as well.”