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Praise for Box Elder's Ketchum, legislative page program

 

March 21, 2019

Havre Daily News/Ryan Berry

Junior Laila Ketchum poses for a portrait Tuesday at Box Elder School in Box Elder High School. Ketchum recently returned from a government page program in Helena.

Box Elder Junior Laila Ketchum, 16, said her experience as a page in this year's Legislative session has opened her eyes to the procedures of government.

"It's an honor to be able to do something like this," Ketchum said. " ... Just the experience of being able to sit in during those sessions was a really a big part of it for me."

Ketchum was one of six students from across Montana to serve as a legislative page in Helena. She served as page for Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, from March 8 to March 16. That included helping with emails, organizing them, arranging them and delivering them, and taking phone messages. If Windy Boy needed anything, she would pick up or deliver it, she said.

During that time she was able to sit in on legislative sessions and got to experience life outside of high school, she said.

She said she doesn't want to run for office, but she got a lot out of the whole experience and has a new appreciation for the work which goes into it.

She said she plans to be more involved in issues now that she has seen how the process works.

Box Elder High School English teacher Kelsey Miller said that Ketchum was selected out of hundreds of applicants across the state for the position.

Ketchum is a prolific reader, inquisitive and a motivated student, she said.

"She is an excellent all-around student," Miller said. " ... She is the kind of person who takes the good from every experience."

One reason she wanted Ketchum to apply for the position, Miller said, was that Ketchum was working during the year on a project about missing and murdered indigenous women. Miller said she noted her work and after speaking to fellow teacher Jay Eagleman, encouraged Ketchum to apply.

She said Ketchum was also part of a group of young women who visited with Sovereign Bodies Institute Executive Director Annita Lucchesi, who spoke about missing or murdered indigenous women. The group also was part of a film highlighting the issue, as well as leading a remembrance walk, she said.

One of the memories Ketchum said she will always remember is sitting in on a hearing at the Senate for a bill dealing with that issue.

House Bill 21, also known as Hanna's Act, was sponsored by Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer. It authorizes the Department of Justice to assist in all missing persons cases, including on Indian reservations, and requires the department to employ a missing persons specialist to work closely with local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement authorities on missing persons cases.

It is named in remembrance of Hanna Harris, a Lame Deer woman who was murdered in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.

It passed unanimously out of the House Feb. 19

Ketchum said that during the March 12 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill she heard various people testifying and telling their stories about how they have been affected by their loved ones going missing or being murdered.

"I think it was a good experience for me to sit in on and see how it went down," she said. "I hope it passes."

Ketchum said that the knowledge and the advice she received from legislators while she was there and seeing how voting really works was a big part of it for her.

She said one thing that surprised her was seeing how many bills are voted down.

Another, she added, was the environment of the Legislature. She said she thought it was going to be very strict, with the pages having strict rules, but it was really "laid back."

"I think it is important for (students) to see more of what goes on," she said. "How these laws are made and how they go through the House and what discussions take place about these laws."

She said she also enjoyed working with the other students who were also serving as legislative pages. Each student works for a different representative, she added.

She said her parents, Carmen Moreno and Robert Ketchum, supported her participation in the program.

"They were really supportive of me doing it, to get out of my own space," she said. "To be able to experience what it's going to be like on my own after I graduate."

She said she participates in her high school's cheerleading team and travel club and also mentors for Stone Child College.

Ketchum said she is already planning 10 steps ahead for her future. She said she wants to earn a doctorate's degree in developmental psychology, adding that, as the oldest out of four siblings, she is interested in child development. She said she likes to see how children develop tendencies and understand what is going on in their minds.

Miller said she encouraged Ketchum to apply because, after hearing about the program, she thought it was a good way to fully immerse students in how government works.

She said Eagleman was a driving force in getting Box Elder students to apply for the page program, and the tribe's online lending company, Plain Green Loans LLC, sponsored Ketchum for the program.

"This was such a cool experience," Miller said.

She said the experience could be nerve-wracking for some students. The position has a professional code, dress code and a number of responsibilities which are unlike many other jobs, she said.

"I just thought it was so cool that she handled that with so much maturity," she said.

She added that she drove Ketchum to and from Helena and was pleased with hearing from Ketchum how contructive the page position was for her.

Miller said that after speaking with Ketchum, she is very excited to see if more of the Box Elder students would be interested in participating.

"We're just really proud of the work that she has done," She said. "We have also gotten back really good feedback from staff and that they were really thankful for her service."

Ketchum said one of best things she got out of the program was being out on her own, experiencing the world for herself and seeing how government works.

"I liked it a lot. It was a really good experience to be able to talk and socialize with those people of authority," Ketchum said. " ... I was glad I went."

"I just think it's a really good experience for every young person," she added. "I would highly recommend it."

 

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