Skateboard, recreational parks at top of list for wannabe mayors

The first-place and finalist essays are featured in today's Editorial section,

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2002

Sixth-graders in Alaska discovered being a mayor isn't quite as easy as it looks, although it sure would be a cool job to have.

The Alaska Conference of Mayors sponsored its second annual "If I Were Mayor I Would ..." essay contest in October, in which sixth-grade students around the state wrote essays about what they think the greatest needs in their municipalities are.

The prompt inspired a variety of answers, some more feasible than others. In Kenai Middle School, three sixth-grade classes participated.

The issue at the forefront of these youngsters' minds was by far and away skateboard parks.

"If I were the mayor, I would build a place called 'extreme world,'" wrote Coby McAtee in his essay. "There would be jumps and half pipes and there would be state parks everywhere. The jumps would be made out of wood, metal and cement. ... I would be the owner."

Recreation opportunities in general, from the formation of statewide soccer and football teams to snowmachine and even indoor water parks, were given a great deal of treatment in the essays.

"I would make a shooting range in Kenai for hunters who want to practice before (the) season starts," wrote Trevor Schaffner. "I would make a law that kids can buy any type of firearm from a shotgun to a 22."

Soliciting new businesses, particularly restaurants, and mainly Chucky Cheese, was another high priority in the essays.

"Another thing is that I would put in another Cyber Chase Cafe," wrote Travis Smith. "Also another Papa Murphy's because my mom loves them."

General pet peeves about middle school life would be changed if some essayists were mayor.

"If I were Mayor, I would do away with detention for being late to Kenai Middle School because lots of kids, like me, are always late to school. That rule gets me detention. Without it there would be time to get to school and not get in trouble," wrote Jillian Corr.

Although many students focused on the needs of their generation in their essays, some attempted to look at the good of the whole community. Building a hospital in Kenai, a bridge across Cook Inlet to speed driving times to Anchorage and requiring bear-proof trash cans were a few of the suggestions voiced.

"Another thing I would do is build a homeless shelter for all the homeless people," wrote Scott Stanford. "Just think of all the people without a home or a place to sleep or eat. Would people want to be on the streets on (those) cold winter days?"

KMS students were encouraged to participate in the program by Kenai Mayor John Williams and council member Duane Bannock, who visited the school to talk to the students about the program. The assembly must have made an impression, at least on Rachel Tyson, who wrote in her essay: "I would also make Duane Bannock my assistant, too."

The winning essayist in the state was KMS student Jordan Jackson. She received a $100 U.S. savings bond. Lacie Wortham, also of KMS, was a finalist in the contest. She won a $25 savings bond.

The girls' language arts, social studies and reading teacher, Susan Wells, made the contest an assignment in her class.

"They generated some pretty good ideas," Wells said.

Wells encouraged her students to talk their ideas over with their parents, or an adult, to help formulate their thoughts, then required the students to do several rewrites.

"When you write something, you need to set it aside and go back to it," Wells told her students. "If you don't understand what you wrote, go back over it again. That was often the case."

Jordan said she bounced her ideas off her parents.

"My mom and dad helped me, and they talked it through with me so I understood it better."

Lacie said her ideas were aimed at "putting an end to the arguing."

"A lot of people say skate parks are too little and streets are too dark," she said.

Jordan, Lacie and their mothers received free airfare to attend the Alaska Conference of Mayors meeting in Valdez this month, where they will receive their awards.

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