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Ontario politics, up close and personal

William Dixon finished up his fourth and final week as a parliamentary page this week at Queen’s Park. The 14-year-old lives in St. Jacobs and attends Foundation Christian School. [Submitted]

One St. Jacobs teenager has been getting a different kind of education for the last month.

Fourteen-year-old William Dixon finished up his stint as a legislative page at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in Toronto this week.

“You have to apply for it, so there’s an application form you fill out. You have to write a 750-word essay and then you go through an anonymous screening process and then they choose different people to be pages,” Dixon explained on the line from Toronto.

The essay must detail the applicant’s achievements in the community and why you think you’d make a good page. In his essay he talked about the sports he’s involved in, in the community and the responsibilities he has as a babysitter.

He’s been able to go home on the weekends and has been staying with his grandparents while participating in the page program. He learned about the program from his baseball coach.

“His son had done it and it sounded interesting and it looked like a good experience being around the chamber,” Dixon said.

A typical day at Queen’s Park for Dixon starts with being dressed in uniform at the page quarters by 8:15. Then they’ll have legislative process class, usually in the morning followed by Question Period, which he finds exciting. After that is lunch, and then in the afternoon there are routine proceedings and orders of the day. He finishes his day between 4:30 and 6 p.m.

He says his friends and family have supported his decision to participate in the program.

“Some of my younger siblings are interested in applying when they get to this age and they feel it’s a really good experience, and they’ve learned a lot about the legislature from watching me on TV,” Dixon said.

It’s also been a good learning experience for him to see up close and personal how the provincial government works and what goes on at the legislature.

“Question Period’s really fun, just being in the chamber for that. It’s really busy. That would be a major highlight,” Dixon said.

He says the biggest challenge is memorizing all of the names and faces of the 107 MPPs, as well as their seating arrangement.

The Grade 8 student has also been keeping up with his studies for Foundation Christian School which he attends in Winterbourne.

“For math we have approximately three hours of math class a week. The days we get out at 4:30 we’ll have some math class. And then other subjects you might get some work that we’ll have to complete on our own time,” Dixon explained.

When asked if he’s interested in going into politics when he’s older, he says it’s an option. He encourages other students to apply to the program as well. Grade 7 and 8 students can apply and must have an academic average of at least 80 per cent.

“It’s really fun. It’s a great experience. I strongly recommend it to everyone. It’s just great to see how this province is governed and what the leaders are doing through the province.”

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