FAIRMONT - Fairmont Area junior Paulina Hoong spent the past five months rubbing elbows with U.S. senators, attending congressional hearings and generally making herself useful at the Capitol.
Her time as a Senate page began on a whim, when Hoong decided to apply online with Sen. Amy Klobuchar's office for sponsorship.
Her application included information about her performance at school, her desire to be part of the program and an essay on an issue facing the government.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Paulina Hoong pose together. Hoong worked with Klobuchar as a Senate page during the fall of 2012.
"I wrote about repealing the Defense of Marriage Act," she said.
Klobuchar accepted her application, and Hoong became the only page from Minnesota serving the Senate during the fall of 2012, and the only Fairmont student on record to take the opportunity.
"Young people like Paulina are taking an interest in the political process and learning the value of public service," Klobuchar said. "I was proud to sponsor her for the Senate Page Program."
Hoong said she chose to apply for the program because she had an interest in politics and enjoyed her classes in government.
She had spent some time away from home, but never as long as her Senate experience required.
"It was an extensive amount of time," she said. "It was five months."
For that duration, Hoong lived in a dormitory with other pages from around the country.
She rose at 5 a.m. each day, began her school day at 6:15 a.m., and continued until 75 minutes before the Senate convened. Morning school work consisted of core subject classes.
For the rest of the day, Hoong and her fellow pages served the Senate as messengers. Because Klobuchar was Hoong's sponsor, Hoong worked for the Democratic Party.
Senate pages serve the senators by delivering correspondence and legislative material, as well as preparing the chamber for Senate sessions.
Pages working the first shift end their day at 6 p.m. Those working the later shift work until senators are finished for the night - sometimes well into the morning.
Hoong found her experience enlightening.
"It was different than I thought it would be," she said, "but I definitely enjoyed it. There are more intricacies than I thought there would be. On TV, you think there is a huge platform and two parties and they vote on one issue."
The Senate page program has been running for more than 100 years. The majority party appoints up to 16 pages, while the minority appoints up to 14.
Hoong, who returned from the program just one week ago, is getting back into the swing of a regular school day.
Although she enjoyed her experience in Washington, Hoong is not making plans to become a politician.
"It was just something I wanted to experience," she said. "I want to be a research neuroscientist."