In 1990, Jennifer Schwartz, then a 16-year-old high school junior from Mulvane, had a front-row seat to the historic run-up to the first war in Iraq.
Schwartz was working in the U.S. House as a page.
"You got to see the democratic process at work, how people with such diverse opinions came together," said Schwartz, now a lawyer who lives in Shawnee.
It was an experience she will treasure her entire life, she said, and she would hate to see the congressional page program jeopardized because of a new scandal involving a Florida congressman's inappropriate e-mails to male pages.
U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, a Republican, resigned last week after he was questioned by reporters about the e-mails.
The scandal has mushroomed, with some calling for the resignation of U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and a temporary halt to the page program. Republicans are growing nervous about the controversy, which comes just five weeks before the Nov. 7 general election.
But Schwartz, who went on to graduate from Kansas University and KU law school, said she hopes the political uproar won't endanger the program.
Since the controversy erupted, she said she and her former page colleagues have been in frequent e-mail contact, expressing shock about negative portrayals of the program.
When she was a page there wasn't a whiff of scandal, she said. The program was well-supervised, and the teens were kept busy with school, page duties and planned weekend activities.
"It was all very positive," she said. "In the contact we had with representatives, it was usually very formal, always very polite."
Both of Lawrence's congressmen said the Foley allegations must be investigated further.
"Young people from all over the country come to Washington, D.C., to learn more about our government and the history of our nation," said U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat from Lenexa.
"As a parent and grandparent, I'm shocked by the recent allegations and expect a full and complete investigation to take place immediately," Moore said.
U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, a Republican from Lawrence, denounced Foley's actions as "reprehensible and completely indefensible."
Ryun said Hastert was right to call for a Justice Department investigation into the Foley incident.
"At this time, we need to see if that investigation uncovers any facts that would necessitate further resignations," Ryun said, adding that a bipartisan panel should review the page program and recommend if any changes are needed.
"I hope for the sake of the young people in the page program that this information was turned over to authorities as soon as it was revealed and not held for political gain," Ryun said.