HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – The COVID-19 pandemic may have put many activities on hold, but it did not stop nearly 30 college and high school students from interning in Suffolk County government this summer.
The Suffolk County Legislature Page Program went fully remote this year, giving 29 college and high school students the unique opportunity to intern through an online platform at a time when half of the internships in the U.S. were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, according to job website Glassdoor.
“Internships are critical to helping students explore their interests, and we felt it was important to figure out how to allow young people to intern in county government safely,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco.
Over 10 weeks in meetings held through Zoom, Pages connected with legislators, elected officials and policy makers from throughout Suffolk County and attended weekly workshops on leadership and personal development. Students also participated in online mock legislative meetings during which they played the roles of county legislators, formed their own caucuses, and debated and voted on mock legislation.
In addition to attending weekly online workshops, students were tasked with developing projects that addressed one of the many issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. One group of Pages hosted a virtual conversation for students ages 14-21 to provide students with the opportunity to interact with others their own age and discuss the impacts COVID-19 is having on their personal and academic lives. Another group launched a social media effort to educate the community about COVID-19 resources and safety guidance. Other Page projects included helping Island Harvest deliver food to 100 families in need, organizing a T-shirt fundraising campaign with the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk County, and writing letters thanking essential workers.
“We are so proud of this year’s Pages, who proved themselves both committed and adaptable during a difficult time,” said Presiding Officer Calarco. “They have strengthened their leadership and professional skills, immersed themselves in the policy-making process, and gained tremendous insight into how government works and what kinds of issues we as public servants encounter every day.”
Page Jack Jaeger, a student who worked with Legislator Leslie Kennedy’s office, said he enjoyed the workshops and hearing from guest speakers who provided new perspectives on what being involved in local government entails.
“I was also blown away by the creativity and diversity of thought among all the Pages,” said Jaeger, of Nesconset. “Learning about how government operates was valuable, but it was eye-opening to see how different we are all were and how we were able to come together to solve problems.”
Page Logan Mazer, a Newfield High School senior who worked with Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn’s office, was selected by his peers to lead the group’s mock legislative meetings as the Page Presiding Officer.
“We learned about county government, but also how to research, compromise and lead,” said Mazer, of Coram. “It is an experience I will cherish and hold with me for the rest of my life.”
The Page Program was created by the Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer’s office in 2015 to provide students with a rewarding and educational experience in local government. Several former Pages returned this year to serve as “Senior Pages” who helped organize activities and guide this year’s class.
“It’s been a pleasure watching these young men and women immerse themselves in the policy-making process,” said Legislator Tom Cilmi, the minority leader. “They’ve learned how our government works, developed their interpersonal skills, and gained an understanding of the complexities often inherent in the issues we confront on a daily basis. I am confident that, whether or not they go on to pursue public service, they leave the Page Program with real life experience and skills which will serve them well in the future.”
Clerk of the Legislature Amy Ellis, whose office coordinates the program, said this year’s class of Pages impressed her with their ability to adapt to an online format and their commitment to making the most of the program.
“The Pages took every opportunity to expand their networks and soak up every bit of knowledge they could,” Ellis said. “This is our sixth year running the program, and these students have been instrumental in helping us evolve in new and creative ways as we moved to an online platform. It was such a pleasure to work with them every week.”
The Pages celebrated the completion of their internship program with a virtual ceremony and outdoor drive-up presentation last week.
Applications for next year’s Page Program will be available in the spring of 2021. For details on the program, please visit the Suffolk County Legislature’s website at www.scnylegislature.us.
The Page Program Class of 2020 Members were:
Zachary Bosak, of Kings Park, who attends SUNY Binghamton
Chelsea Cuervo, of Lake Grove, who attends Pace University
Jillian Dempsey, of Smithtown, who recently graduated from SUNY Stony Brook
Tim Dominici, of Riverhead, who attends SUNY Buffalo
Zachary Graulich, of Dix Hills, who attends SUNY Stony Brook
Ethan Halle, of Huntington, who attends the University of Florida
Jack Jaeger, of Nesconset, who attends Northeastern University
Diane Jagielski, of Lindenhurst, who attends SUNY Stony Brook
Rachel Kang, of Dix Hills, who attends Syracuse University
Aidan Mallon, of Dix Hills, who attends Boston College
Darielle Matthews, of Wheatley Heights, who attends Wesleyan University
Angelina Mavros, of Lindenhurst, who attends Lindenhurst Senior High School
Logan Mazer, of Coram, who attends Newfield High School
Arsh Naseer, of Manorville, who attends SUNY Stony Brook
Vincent Rodriguez, of Huntington Station, who attends SUNY Albany
Chase Schare, of Dix Hills, who attends Colgate University
Troy Sica, of Bellport, who attends Bellport High School
Rayyan Tirmizi, of Centereach, who attends Suffolk County Community College
Joseph VanGostein, of Huntington Station, who attends Fordham University
Flor Villanueva, of Brentwood, who attends Yale University
Edwin Ward, of Southold, who attends SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Cameron Wolk, of Dix Hills, who attends SUNY Stony Brook
Jordan Zaia, of Massapequa, who attends Penn State
Hillary Beaudouin, of Holtsville, who attends SUNY Potsdam
Olivia Catanuto, of Center Moriches, who attends Saint Joseph’s College
William Gavin, of Holbrook, who attends Marist College
Christina Mirabella, of East Northport, who attends Long Island University
Angela Porwick, of Bayport, who attends City University of New York, City College
Ezekiel Wigutow, of Huntington, who attends the University of Notre Dame
Caption for above photo: Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn congratulates Newfield High School senior Logan Mazer for completing the Suffolk County Legislature’s 2020 Page Program. Mazer, of Coram, was chosen as “Page Presiding Officer” and led the interns’ mock legislative meetings.