The rolling hills of Greene are a long way off from cosmopolitan Washington, D.C., with its storied monuments and the halls of power where elected officials shape the future of our country.
But last fall, Renee Clark was at the heart of it, running messages and errands as part of the Senate Page Program, one of the most selective and prestigious programs for teens in the United States. The Greene High School junior was appointed by Senator Charles Schumer, although she and other pages worked for all the Senators in the non-partisan program.
So, how did the SUNY Broome Early College student learn about the opportunity?
“Like any high school student, I was looking at my Senator’s website,” she quipped.
The idea first sparked in middle school; while on a class trip to Washington, Renee read about the page program in a book. As a lover of history and a fan of The West Wing, she was intrigued. She never forgot about the opportunity and, when a teacher encouraged her to apply years later, decided to go for it.
“I had that mentality: ‘Why not?’ It’s an absolutely fantastic opportunity, especially for a kid from this area,” she said.
While there from Sept. 4 through Jan. 25, she served with teens from all over the country – many of them students at elite schools. Like all pages, she woke up at 5 a.m., headed to class from 6 to 10 a.m., and then went to work on the Senate floor for as long as they were in session.
It was a world away from small-town Greene, where the graduating class is only 63 students. Renee, however, has been taking college courses through SUNY Broome since she was a high school freshman, which left her well-prepared for the rigors of Washington.
“It helped me feel secure,” she said. “You have this understanding: ‘I can handle this rigor and this material. I can do this.’”
A head start on college
The page program isn’t the only dream Renee is working to fulfill. Years ago, she learned about a family friend who managed to earn his high school diploma and his Associate’s degree at the same time. Before she even entered high school, Renee Clark knew that was the path she wanted to take.
Greene is too small to offer Advanced Placement courses – the usual route for college credit in high school – so Renee opted for SUNY Broome. She began with online courses in her freshman year, followed by classes on campus as a sophomore. As a junior, she is taking Calculus 1 and Microeconomics on campus this semester.
“It’s really great. You get to learn from professors who are excited about the content,” she said. “I’m taking classes none of my peers in high school are taking.”
After graduating from both high school and SUNY Broome, she plans to attend a four-year university – which one, she’s not sure yet – and then join the Armed Services.
“I’m a languages person. I’ve been studying Arabic for four years, and I may possibly major in political science and Arabic,” she said of her future plans. “I want to serve my country and use the skills I enjoy using.”
From there, off to law school and, perhaps, a career in government. While Renee won’t rule out a run for office someday, she prefers a different kind of role: “I want to be the guy ‘the guy’ counts on,” she said.
Renee Clark has big dreams – and the dedication to accomplish them. SUNY Broome has a part in that success, and is a popular college destination for many of her peers from Greene, she said.
“I think the college does a really good job of preparing people for their next step,” she said.