Lindsey Stokes is just a country girl, so when she was honored at an awards ceremony in Atlanta last week she was a little out of her element.
"I'm not used to all that," said Lindsey, who made the trip to the state capital with her parents, Gregg and Joette Stokes, and her English teacher, Karen Manion.
Lindsey was one of 12 semifinalists in a statewide contest sponsored by the Georgia Municipal Association in which pupils wrote essays on the theme, "If I Were Mayor."
The road to Atlanta was a long one, with more than 380 entrants in Lindsey's District 7. Overall, there were more than 4,800 entrants in 12 districts, all vying for a $250 savings bond and the ultimate title of state winner. As a district winner, Lindsey won a $250 savings bond and the opportunity to compete with the other finalists for another $250 savings bond. While she didn't win the state honor, she was delighted just the same.
"My heart just stopped," said the 12-year-old Harlem Middle School pupil of learning that she was the district winner.
In her essay, Lindsey wrote about animal protection, the need to raise cancer awareness and the desire for social weekend gatherings of townsfolk.
Ann Henderson, public information manager for the Georgia Municipal Association, said judges of the contest are all city officials who are involved in education.
"We narrow the essays down before they go to the judges," she said, adding that the number of essays read by the judges varies from district to district.
Essays are judged on multiple criteria: is it an original thought, is it something within the realm of what a city government can do, is it sincere, and are spelling and grammar correct?
According to Henderson, the essay contest, in its ninth year, is intended to educate middle-school pupils on what cities, mayors and city councils do, and to encourage pupils to be more active in their communities.
"This is honestly one of my favorite programs that we are involved in," she said. "We learn so much from the kids.
"We see what their concerns are and that's important to a lot of city officials, because they want to know the issues these students are concerned with and how to keep them in their communities."
Asked if she might want to be mayor one day, Lindsey said she wasn't sure.
"I might be," she said. "It's never really crossed my mind."
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