FALMOUTH — Not many high school juniors pack up and move to Washington, D.C., for five months to live on their own and work for the government.
But that’s exactly what Hannah Michaud did this past semester. And she had been working towards it for years.
Michaud, a junior at Falmouth High School, recently returned from a semester serving as a page to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. She was one of 30 other high school students from across the country participating in the Senate page program, and the only one from Maine.
Being a page, Michaud said, is like having “a front seat to history.”
Michaud and her fellow pages had the chance to see Pope Francis when he came to the nation’s capital in September. She saw presidents and vice presidents, both past and present. She also met former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart.
But the most starstruck moment during her five-month stay? It was at President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union speech.
“It was an incredible moment,” she said.
Michaud was also present for something that made national news toward the end of her stay in D.C.: A blizzard that hit the city in late January and kept almost every senator off Capital Hill – except for Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.
Since the action was limited that day, page presence was voluntary. Michaud volunteered, and said in the end the Senate was filled almost exclusively with women pages, parliamentarians and other staffers.
“It was phenomenal to be a part of that,” she said.
But the thing Michaud said would have the most lasting impression on her was seeing how the senators worked together in a bipartisan way. She said it wasn’t the stern back and forth of people who dislike each other that many people think it is, but that the senators cared about working with each other and doing their jobs.
“It changed my opinions,” she said. “… I’m more open to different opinions and policies (now).”
Michaud said she first became interested in the page program when she was in eighth grade. Her mother, Jennifer Meserve, said she was impressed by how motivated Michaud was to get into the program.
“She was independent in the whole process,” Meserve said. “How can you say no to someone so driven?”
Falmouth’s Hannah Michaud, left, served as a page to U.S. Sen. Susan Collins in Washington, D.C.