Piney Ridge Elementary School fourth grader Kaitlin Conway was selected as one of the top 10 winners in the Maryland Municipal League's "If I were mayor, I would..." essay contest.
Kaitlin, 10, was one of more than 2,000 fourth grade students across the state of Maryland to enter the contest, according to the Maryland Municipal League's website.
Paula Chase-Hyman from the Maryland Municipal League said a committee of readers goes through the submitted essays and selects the top five essays from district. Then, mayors that are members of the Maryland Mayors Association serve as final judges, selecting a winner from each region, she said.
Kaitlin, of Sykesville, said she was inspired to enter the contest after Sykesville Mayor Mike Miller visited Piney Ridge to talk about his duties as mayor. Miller mentioned the essay contest to the students, and Kaitlin said she wanted to enter, never expecting to win.
Miller said when he visited Piney Ridge he wanted to let the students know that residents can get connected and be involved with local government, and even elementary school students can touch base with their local representatives.
Kaitlin's mother, Crissy, said Kaitlin came home from school one day and told her parents about her interest in the contest.
"She was motivated to do it on her own," Crissy said. "She's a great student and she's a hard worker."
The essay encompassed two of Kaitlin's favorite things, she said, which made her even more excited to be a part of the contest.
"Writing is my favorite subject, and I also am interested in government," Kaitlin said. "It's interesting what you have to do in order to be in the government."
Kaitlin said in her essay she wrote what she would do to improve the town of Sykesville.
"If I were mayor, I would try to find creative solutions that save money, maintain town services, and protect and improve our environment," she wrote in the introduction of her essay. "The town provides some great services ... These services are getting more expensive every year and tax revenue is decreasing. Now, the town is having trouble paying for all these services."
Kaitlin suggested that the town encourage recycling more and plant more trees. This would help the environment, she said, while decreasing maintenance like mowing grass because of the trees, and increasing habitats for birds and other animals.
She also said investing in more efficient street lights that save energy and only shine light down on the ground would save money and help the environment.
And finally, Kaitlin wrote that she would use social media to share the town's news, instead of paper newsletters, in order to save money and trees.
Crissy said working on the essay was a rewarding experience for Kaitlin, whether she won or not.
"It was really cool because it was a learning process and she actually got to see the things that a town does and what the mayor does for the town," Crissy said.
But everyone was ecstatic when they found out that Kaitlin was a top 10 winner, Crissy said.
"I felt excited and surprised," Kaitlin said. "I thought it would be interesting to enter just to see what would happen. I didn't think I would win."
Miller shared in their excitement, and said he plans on personally congratulating Kaitlin on her win.
"It's humbling and it's exciting that a Sykesville student won because it's Maryland-wide, so having somebody from our local elementary school win is a pretty big feat," he said.
Crissy said Kaitlin won $100 and was invited to a special recognition ceremony at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown will present her with a plaque and a Governor's citation. Kaitlin and her family, along with her teacher Catherine North, were also invited on a boat tour of the harbor after the ceremony, Crissy said.
Representatives from the Sykesville Town Council will also be present at the ceremony, according to Miller.
Another Piney Ridge student, Ashley Elizabeth Asiedu, was recognized as a semi-finalist in the essay contest, according to the Maryland Municipal League's website.