Young Essay Contest Winner Would 'Focus on the True Meaning of Community,' If She Were Mayor
Fifth-grader Michaelina Panner, who won the Town of Somerset's "If I Were Mayor" essay contest, read her essay at Monday's Town of Somerset Council meeting.
If she were mayor, Michaelina Panner—a fifth-grader at Somerset Elementary School—would "focus on the true meaning of community" by "addressing[ing] the challenges elderly people without family close by face" every day.
"They often confront the most challenges with the least resources," Michaelina wrote in her entry for last spring's Maryland Municipal League's "If I Were Mayor" essay contest.
Michaelina, daughter of Morris Panner and Nancy Jardini, was a semi-finalist in the statewide essay contest last spring for fourth-graders, and her essay was selected by the Town of Somerset as the town's winning essay.
Now in the fifth grade, she read her essay at the town's October council meeting on Monday, temporarily taking over Mayor Jeffrey Slavin's seat at the center of the council table.
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The contest gives fourth-grade students across the state "a chance to creatively use grade-specific language arts skills and civics/social studies knowledge." This year’s contest theme, “Meeting the Challenge,” asked students "to identify interesting problems and challenges in their communities, decide which they would address [if they were mayor] and [tell] how they would encourage citizen involvement," according to a press release from the lieutenant governor's office.
Michaelina's essay stressed the need for a town's different generations to come together to form a true community:
If I were mayor, I would focus on the true meaning of community. I would address the challenges elderly people without family close by face everyday. They often confront the most challenges with the least resources.
First, I will develop a plan to meet their basic needs. When the power goes out, we need a neighbor to check on them. When there is a heavy snow, we would designate someone to shovel people out. Also, I would ask somebody to take the responsibility of putting down sand. Finally, we need to provide a safe place if something were to happen to their homes and meals if they are hungry. Our seniors deserve safety, love and care.
But a true community is more than a helping hand. No one should feel left out. People need companionship. We can provide it. The elderly need someone to talk to so they don’t feel isolated. They need someone with whom to walk.
I would start a service-learning project for our school and community. Every senior would be paired with a younger person. They would help, comfort and talk to each other. It would be fun to meet new people and learn from them. They would benefit, as would I.
Our community will be open and accepting. Anyone would be glad to live in a neighborhood like this.
This is the true meaning of community. I hope you agree.
Michaelina's essay won accolades from community members.
“I am so proud of her," said Michaelina’s teacher, Amanda DeMarco. "It is such an accomplishment [for Michaelina] and I couldn’t be happier."
Over the years, "a lot of the ideas that have come forward from the essays have actually been implemented. ... It’s amazing how insightful and informed fourth graders can be," Mayor Slavin added.