Student essay contest winner impresses Annual Meeting crowd

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MMA student essay contest winner Joe MaselliJoe Maselli of Wilmington, who took first place in the MMA’s annual sixth grade essay contest, read his essay about making his community greener and developing mentoring programs for students during the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 24 in Boston.

Maselli showed impressive composure reading to nearly 300 local officials at the Friday dinner.

“This program would help the municipality by showing, educating, and motivating citizens on the potential outcome of recycling,” he said. “We can diminish the use of paper by encouraging people to read newspapers and periodicals on electronic devices.”

Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, in one of her final duties as president of the MMA, presented Maselli with a certificate of achievement and a check for his victory in the eighth annual contest. Maselli and his family also won a complimentary overnight stay from the Sheraton Boston Hotel.

There was also a surprise visit from U.S. Sen. Ed Markey, who congratulated Maselli on his award and took pictures with him and his family.

Maselli’s parents, two younger brothers, and grandparents looked on proudly as Maselli told the audience, “I truly believe that anyone is capable of making a difference in their community.”

Maselli’s essay was chosen from nearly 2,500 entries in the statewide contest, which had 79 participating communities. The student essays covered a range of local issues, including healthy living, recreational services, green energy, wildlife protection, public safety and technology.

Halifax Selectman Kim Roy, one of four essay contest judges, said it was “particularly interesting to see what their perspective was on governing their communities,” adding that it was a wonderful experience reading all of the essays.

The other judges were Dina Siegal, deputy director of intergovernmental affairs in the Boston mayor’s office, Salem City Councillor Joseph O’Keefe, and Westborough Assistant Town Manager Kristi Williams.

Judging criteria were creativity, clarity, proper use of grammar, and an understanding of local government. All of the student essays began with the line: “If I were elected leader of my community I would make a difference by …” Essays were limited to 300 words.

Second place in the contest went to Taylor Lynch, a student at the Dr. Phillip Coakley Middle School in Norwood. The third-place finisher was Christopher Sullivan from Charlton Middle School in Charlton.

Lynch and Sullivan will receive their awards in ceremonies in their respective town halls.

The essay contest is made possible through the support of the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association.

Winning Student Essays

First Place: Joe Maselli
Wilmington Middle School

If were elected leader of my community, I would make a difference by making the town greener and develop a mentoring program for high school students.

There are multiple ways to make a community greener and cleaner. One solution is to create a recycling program. This program would help the municipality by showing, educating, and motivating citizens on the potential outcome of recycling. Also, sorting paper, plastic and glass for recycling can make efforts easier.

Holding town recycling days in a designated area in addition to curbside pickup can enrich the cause. As well, we can diminish the use of paper by encouraging people to read newspapers and periodicals on electronic devices.

Along with making the community greener, I would institute a mentoring program intended for high school students. This program would introduce students to a variety of occupations that may be of interest to them to pursue after college.

One way of doing this would be to ask local businesses to participate in the program. Qualifying students would visit these participating businesses. The students would observe the daily operations of a variety of occupations that are of interest to them. This would also offer the students a hands-on experience and insight to a future career.

It would be my goal to have these businesses continue to mentor these students during their college careers. Most excitingly, these intern programs could turn into jobs at these local businesses.

These are just two of many thoughts and viewpoints of what I would do if I were elected leader. Making a community greener can lead to a better reputation for our community. Developing a mentoring program for high school students can lead them to a successful future. I truly believe that anyone is capable of making a difference in their community, leader or not.

Second Place: Taylor Lynch
Dr. Phillip Coakley Middle School, Norwood

If I were elected leader of my community I would make a difference by helping Norwood become a more inclusive community.

For example, Norwood needs an inclusive playground so special needs kids can have fun with their friends who don’t have special needs. Playgrounds are important to the community because kids learn how to interact with their peers. Playing teaches how to make friends, make rules and to cooperate. These are skills that are valuable for life.

Furthermore, as of March 15, 2012, federal law requires public play areas to be accessible so everyone can use them. Public playgrounds are the responsibility of local governments. Norwood does not have a fully accessible playground and we need one.

However, the higher cost of an accessible playground means most local governments can’t afford them. Towns are busy paying for police, firemen, EMTs and schools. Nobody wants to raise taxes, so I would work with the town manager and the superintendent of recreation to figure out a plan.

I would visit the PAC (special need parents group) and all of the schools’ PTO meetings to present this idea, get feedback, hear their ideas, and ask them to volunteer to work with the Department of Recreation as a team to create a plan of action. The PAC and PTO groups are important because as parents, they are interested in making Norwood a better place.

There are state and federal grants to fund building an accessible playground. Also, corporations like Lowes, Hasbro and others donate money for special projects. The committee of parents could find out about the different grants, do fund raisers, convince other parents to donate their time, and communicate with businesses in the community.

In conclusion, I will help Norwood become a more inclusive community through this playground project, which will build understanding through the cooperation of town government, citizens and businesses.

Third Place: Christopher Sullivan
Charlton Middle School

If I were elected leader of my community, I would make a difference by strengthening Charlton’s economy. To do this, after my election to the Board of Selectmen, I would lead the selectmen in making important changes in the town.

We would need to make more jobs available. By bringing in bigger businesses, and a local hospital, we could provide more jobs, and better services as well.

Charlton’s economy will surely improve if we provided more jobs and services because it would encourage more people to move here and would enlarge the tax money, too.

Businesses such as Apple, Microsoft and Nike may like to locate to Charlton because there is lots of undeveloped land. We could locate these businesses along Route 20, since it is already zoned for business.

Also, we could add an amusement park and miniature golf course, since there are not many places in Charlton for kids to go and have fun.

If we were to have a hospital in Charlton, the citizens of our town can get medical help quicker than they can now. A hospital in Charlton would be best located between the Mass Pike and Route 20, since this is where most car crashes take place. In this way, accident victims can get help more quickly.

Also, police should be stationed along Route 20 as well, so they could respond more quickly to help. An additional police post could also open up new positions for more police, so that they can perform more important services.

By doing these things, Charlton would attract more people to build new homes here. This in turn would grow the residential tax money.

I believe that with this plan as an elected leader, I could strengthen our economic situation by bringing bigger businesses to Charlton, providing more good-paying jobs, new building projects and better town-wide services.
Written by MMA Assistant Editor Katelyn O'Brien