OAKLAND

N MOST weekday evenings during the next five months, Mary and LaJuan Tarrance expect to tune in to C-SPAN.

As members of Congress debate the latest offshore drilling plan or vote on war funding, the couple will be watching, intently — for a tall, African-American girl wearing a navy blazer.

The Tarrances' 16-year-old daughter, Raven, was chosen by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, to be a page for the U.S. House of Representatives. She leaves Monday for Washington and doesn't return to Oakland until mid-January.

Raven, a quiet, straight-A student at Castlemont's Leadership Preparatory High School,

will spend the first semester of the 11th grade living in a dormitory with dozens of other high school juniors from around the country. Instead of going to class on MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland, she'll report to the House Page School in the Library of Congress.

It will be her first time in the nation's capital.

"I want to go on a tour as soon as I get there," Raven said Wednesday, as she sat in the front room of her house. "I want to see the White House. I want to see just about everything."

Staff at the Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center, where Raven has worked on a getting-out-the-vote campaign, urged her to apply for the opportunity after her principal, Denise Jeffrey, recommended her for the position.

"I know that she's going to represent Leadership well, as well as represent her family well, and that she's going to come back a different person," Jeffrey said.

Pages have served Congress for more than 175 years, and girls have been included since 1971, according to a recent congressional report. The program made headlines in 2006 when Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., resigned amid accusations that he sent inappropriate messages online to at least one young page.

Raven still knows little about what the next few months will entail, other than wearing a uniform, carrying paperwork from place to place and starting school every morning at 6:45. She said the experience will be a test of her self-reliance, "just to know that I can make decisions on my own," since she hasn't been away from her parents for longer than a week at a time.

Raven's mother — who often tells her daughter that "the sky is the limit" — says she is certain the teenager is up to the challenge.

"I told her, 'Just enjoy it,' because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. "Many kids, especially in the area that we live in, don't get this opportunity."

Raven says she doesn't hold political aspirations. She's eyeing a career in science instead, possibly in forensics. Still, she looks forward to being in Washington during the presidential election, and she hopes to witness some of the major political events firsthand.

"You always hear about how stuff happens," she said, "But being able to see it and be a part of it is pretty cool to me."

Reach Reporter Katy Murphy at 510-208-6424 or kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her Oakland schools blog and post comments at www.ibabuzz.com/education.

What do pages do?
Pages are messengers who carry documents back and forth between the House and Senate offices and the Library of Congress. They also help to prepare the House or Senate chambers by distributing the Congressional Record and other documents related to the day's agenda. When Congress is in session, they may be summoned by the members for assistance. There are about 100 pages at a given time.
Source: CRS Report for Congress, "Pages of the United States Congress"