RICHMOND, Va. -- When it comes to leadership, boys and girls at the Virginia State Capitol look no further than Helen Hess. The 80-year-old woman's adulthood is defined by children. Lots of children.
For 31-years, Helen taught middle school in Colonial Heights, Chesterfield and Henrico.
But following retirement from the classroom, Helen felt she had more to offer.
Eighteen years ago, she accepted the responsibility of molding new generations.
Her second classroom? The state Capitol.
Helen knows the hallways of Jefferson’s Capitol better than some politicians.
She runs the House of Delegates page program which is a hands-on civics lesson for roughly 40 teens from across the Commonwealth.
Pages consider Helen a mentor, a manager, and a mother.
"She is amazing," 15-year-old Camille Dundon said. "She keeps all of the pages in check. You know you can come to her with any issues. Very maternal."
Helen credits her more than 660 pages with keeping her young over the years. Everyone new to the Capitol relies on Ms. Helen.
“She is very kind and sweet. Thinking about everyone’s feelings and how to make everyone’s experience the best,” 15-year-old Carter Fornash said.
One person who knows Helen’s impact is former page Jay Jones.
Jones returned to the House of Delegates chamber this year as a delegate representing Norfolk.
“When you’re 13 years old and you’re away from home, you do have a lot of freedom and free time. She makes sure you’re doing your homework and where you’re supposed to be and the trains run on time,” Jones said.
But as Jones wraps up his first session at the General Assembly, Helen is winding down her last.
She is retiring at the end of the session.
Helen pens a poem every year. Her last line proving prophetic.
“And it could be that 20 years down the road that there will be a delegate’s seat to fill. One of this year’s pages might be the one returning to capitol hill,” she said.
Coming full circle, she knows it is time to walk away after half century of helping children.
“I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I want to be there to help,” she said.
She may be turning the page, but Helen Hess said this was not her last chapter.
“That interaction I will miss. I thought about that the other day. I’m going to miss this," she said.
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