At 18 years old, Jaclyn Cline already has experience working in all three levels of American government.
Cline shadowed a legislator at the Vermont State House as a high school freshman and sophomore and served as a page in the United States Senate as a junior. In October, she was appointed to represent students as a senior on the Colchester School Board.
“She has hands-on experience with what it means to see politics in action,” Superintendent Amy Minor said to introduce Cline during her first board meeting last month. “This is a sought-out position. There was an extensive pool [of applicants]. By far, the committee felt like she was the best student to represent all of her peers.”
The student representative provides a non-voting perspective on board decisions. Cline prepares for each meeting by reading the board packets and readies herself to provide a student voice on each agenda item.
The position is a perfect combination of her passions for politics and education.
“I was interested because I know it directly affects education in my community,” she said.
Last year at this time, Cline was just settling into the U.S. Senate page program, meeting 29 other high-schoolers from across the country with whom she would live dorm-style for the next six months and grappling with the prospect of being without a smartphone until February (That’s rule No. 1 in the page program’s policy handbook, she said.)
Cline secured one of two Vermont page spots after an application process through Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office. Her days were a combination of classes and working in the Senate, helping lawmakers with daily schedules, speech preparation and policy briefings.
She formed close friendships and gained an intimate understanding of the workings of the legislative branch.
“The Senate is a lot different than the media portrays it,” Cline said. “I noticed how hard [Senators] work and how passionate they are.”
Cline’s work in Congress was preceded by her participation in “Girls Rock the Capitol,” a program of the Girls Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. The program recruits female teens to intern with female state legislators. Cline participated as a freshman and sophomore, shadowing Valerie Stuart of Brattleboro one day a month during the legislative session.
As a freshman, Cline viewed her entrance into politics mostly as a résumé-builder. Three years later, she is comfortable among politicians of all levels and is perhaps the most qualified student ever to serve on the Colchester School Board.
“The school board is just like national politics, but on the local level,” Cline said. “My role is to represent CHS and the whole district from a student perspective, a non-taxpayer perspective.”