Learning through Service

Many teenagers waste their summers away by sleeping in late, watching TV and playing video games.

But not Riley Foley.

He spent the summer before his junior year 3,000 miles away from home in Washington, D.C., where he was one of 72 students culled from hundreds of applicants to serve as a page for the House of Representatives.

Foley, a 17-year-old Bishop Gorman High School senior, has been interested in politics and his community for as long as he can remember.

He acted on these interests when he underwent the lengthy application process to become a page in the summer of 2006.

After first proving that he was an American citizen and an academically excellent student with at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, Foley had to arrange transcripts, parental consent forms, a resume of extracurricular activities, recommendation letters and write an essay explaining why he wanted to become a page.

Upon landing the position, Foley spent three weeks in Washington living and breathing politics.

“Most of our work goes unnoticed, but the House couldn’t function properly without the pages,” Foley explains, a look of pride flooding his face. “We did so much.”

Each morning, Foley would wake up early and take a short walk to the Capitol where he worked.

As the day progressed, he delivered documents and flags to the House floor, where only elected members of the House, pages and security guards are allowed to tread.

“Not even the president’s wife can sit on the floor during the State of the Union address because she’s not an elected official,” Foley says with a smile.

The days were long, tiring and full of exercise, but when he had free time, Foley would sit in the House and listen to the debates.

He even observed part of a 10-hour discussion on the war in Iraq.

Even when he was off the clock, Foley took any chance he could to gauge his political ideologies by spending time with politicians.

Foley’s best memory from the page program happened when he spent the evening at the National Democratic Club eating dinner with Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley.

“I learned how complicated, yet important the government is,” Foley explains. “Every day I saw people making decisions that affected the entire world.”

Not only active in politics, Foley also volunteers at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission, which helps the homeless. There, he started a blanket drive during his junior year.

“I definitely had to learn to improve my communications skills — and fast — if I wanted to convince people to participate,” Foley says.

In the end, he collected more than 500 blankets and decided to helm another drive earlier this year.

“For the last two freezing winters, I have helped Riley with raising blankets for the homeless,” says Sean Kelly, a 17-year-old Bishop Gorman senior. “It made me realize how lucky I am.”

Foley doesn’t just do community service through the mission.

He’s also the vice president of Bishop Gorman’s Service Club, where he coordinates a recycling program and helps clean up local parks, as well as the tutoring coordinator for his local National Honor Society chapter, where he assigns each member in the club a student they’re in charge of tutoring.

This year, Foley has helped more than 10 students land tutors.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life before I started the page program or community service,” Foley says. “I knew I enjoyed politics and helping people, but now I know I want to be involved with politics and service one day.”

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