With a face of astonished joy - followed by a wide, shy smile and noisy cheers from her friends - 11-year-old Scarlett Wickham walked to the front of the South Elementary School stage to receive her prize.
Ten fifth-graders were honored Wednesday in Jefferson City for the writing they submitted as part of the "If I Were Mayor" essay contest, but Wickham is this year's top winner.
The annual event - now in its sixth year - is co-sponsored by former Second Ward City Councilman Rich Koon and the Jefferson City Council.
Wickham said winning first place was a thrill.
"I thought maybe fourth or fifth place. But first? I'm so surprised," she said. "This is the best feeling I've ever had."
Wickham was inspired to write about the need for better bus transportation because one of her friends frequently has to walk from place to place.
She said the writing process is maddening in the beginning. "Because I hit that wall and I can't figure it out, I'm stumped. "Oh, come on!'" she said she tells herself. "But I wrote (my essay) down, and it paid off."
Siera Richardson earned second place. Richardson, who enjoys writing, said her essay ideas came from personal experience and listening to the news.
"But this definitely gave me a big boost," she said.
The other children who earned prizes are: Daniel Hake, Jevon Smith, D'Ante Newburn, Maddie Showers, Carson Ireland, Lamonte Tejan, Iyanna Pruitt and MarRissa Smith. Thanks to Koon, all received different board games, ranging from classic favorites like Millionaire Monopoly to new ones like Hedbanz.
Richardson and Wickham will read their essays at the April 15 Jefferson City Council meeting.
"And they'll sit in the mayor's chair," said Koon.
Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte said he appreciated visiting with the students a few weeks ago and offered his congratulations to all the winners. "I hope you learned something about city government and are encouraged to serve some day in city government," he said.
If I were mayor I would add a recreation center so people have a fun place to go if it's too hot or too cold outside. I would also add more bus transportation so people don't have to walk so much.
This recreation center would include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, mini golf, workout rooms, gyms, an arcade room, shuffle board, ping pong, pool, a Wii, an Xbox and a Playstation II. I would do this because people need a place to go when it's too hot or too cold. Also it would be a fun place to go with your family and friends.
Now let's talk about transportation. If I were mayor, I would add more bus transportation during the day and night. Why would I do this? Some people don't have a car, so they have to walk in the cold or hot weather, and they probably do not want to do that. Buses can help. I want to prevent people getting shot or beat up, and buses might help those people. It would keep people off the street at night when they are walking to the store or work.
These are the things I would do if I were mayor: Add a recreation center and more bus transportation during the day and night. A recreation center would make Jefferson City better because it is a safe place to go with friends and family. Bus transportation can help people keep their jobs. It can help people get to where they are going quicker than walking. This will mean that Jefferson City would be safer and have more places to go with their family and friends.
I know most people love Jefferson City, from its schools to its stores. It's an overall good place. But that doesn't mean it doesn't have any flaws. If I were mayor, I would change two things. I would make the animal shelters in the city bigger and better. I would also want to make sure that the parks in the city get renewed every year.
If I were mayor, I would make the animal shelters bigger and better. I have been to animal shelters in town and they only hold "x" amount of pets, but I think we should fix that. Reason one, the animals in Jefferson City's animal shelters are often strays or puppies. They don't know how to interact with other dogs. If we put these dogs in cages with other dogs, they are not likely to get along. Reason two, I think every dog should have a different-sized cage according to their breed. Reason three, my dog was born in a litter of seven puppies. They either had to be sold or be transferred to St. Louis because the animal shelters were too overcrowded.
That is why we need to make the animal shelters bigger and better.
My second change is to restore city parks at least once a year. Reason one, from personal experience, after a park is a couple years old it starts to get dirty and unsafe. Like Memorial Park ... it is made out of wood and is starting to cause splinters, the slides look like they are about to fall off, and the swings are even worse. If it's possible, we should make the parks more kid friendly. I am not saying that we should destroy every park and start from scratch, but the parks definitely need some renovating. Those are the reasons why I think we should be renewing city parks more often.
Now you have seen my point of view. Now I want to know your opinion about my topics. Everybody loves Jefferson City but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any flaws.