Students from Waseca County and the cities of Rochester and Ely were selected as winners of the 2021 Mayor for a Day Essay Contest. They shared ideas to strengthen support systems for teens, celebrate diverse communities, and bring generations together.
In addition, judges selected four honorable mention essayists — from the cities of Elk River, Hartland, Rochester, and Zimmerman — to recognize their ideas for addressing homelessness, providing meals for first responders, creating a splash pad with regional appeal, honoring Indigenous communities, and caring for natural habitat.
About the contest
The League of Minnesota Cities Mayor for a Day Essay Contest began in 2013 and continues to invite fourth, fifth, and sixth graders to share how they would make their communities even better places to live. In addition to having their essays published here, winners receive a plaque and a check for $100. Honorable mention students receive a certificate of recognition.
While students take home the prize, plenty of credit goes to the parents and teachers who helped ensure students had the opportunity to participate. This year, 295 students submitted entries by regular mail, email, online form, and fax. One parent even took a photo of a handwritten essay and emailed the photo. (If they arrived by pigeon, they’d be accepted, too.)
Many students obviously understood the foundation of local governance. They talked about listening to residents, sharing their ideas, getting community buy-in, and providing opportunities for residents to participate in projects.
“I am trying to make my local rec center better. I am going to listen to the residents and see what they would hope for most in the rec center,” wrote Natalee Hoffman, a fifth grader from Upsala.
Common themes of caring
As always, the essays included a few zany highlights, but judges were also once again struck by the perceptive, compassionate, and creative ideas that our future city leaders shared. Many students mentioned addressing homelessness, investing in libraries, picking up litter, and caring for animals.
Ruby Kleinschmidt, a fourth grader from Erhard, planned a civic relay day, starting with donating food, then using the bag to pick up litter, then trading in the bag for leashes and dog walks at the local animal shelter, with a final stop at the library for reading and crafts.
A topic addressed directly by winner Mallory Groskreutz, mental health, was also reflected in the ideas of several other students.
Ava Pyper Larson, a sixth grader from Elk River, proposed that the city “build a building called Helping Paws. A very special building full of specialists in mental health and dogs.”
Now it’s your turn
New to the contest this year, cities were invited to notify the League if they would like to receive any entries from student residents for local recognition. City halls will connect with students this spring and share how informed residents — of any age — can help shape the future of their communities.
If I were Mayor I would have the police department start a group of teens that are interested in helping others. For example teaching teens how to identify suicidal behavior, drug use, bullying, physical abuse. This group would be a trustworthy group who is taught to keep other people’s information private so they will feel comfortable talking with members of the group. This group should have meetings to talk to each other about concerns in the school and the town. This will teach teens about resources available to them for help and to not be afraid to come forward with important information. I feel that life has been difficult for many people and having extra help in the school for people who struggle with any problems would have trustworthy teens to talk to as it is very scary it admits to your problems and fears. As a kid it is hard for some kids to go and tell adults their problems but it might be easier to talk to someone their own age. Having more eyes watching for these concerns will be helpful in finding problems earlier. The police are experienced and would be great at teaching teens how to be helpful to each other.
I think it’s a good idea to have the police be involved with kids in their community so kids understand how important the police are.
If I were Mayor for a day I would create a language learning center for our community.
Rochester is a great city with people from all over the world. The problem is that there’s no place for people to come and share about their language and culture. So, if I were Mayor for a day, I would make a special place for people to come and learn different languages and cultures.
I would use the Rochester Public Library to make a space for the language learning center. People would come and bring things from their culture, and teach everybody some of their language. I would like this event to happen once a week during the school year. People could also share how to create things they make in their culture.
This would benefit our community by breaking down our differences and showing us our similarities. Plus, there is really not a lot of ways to learn other languages here in Rochester. The public library is a good spot for people to come together and teach each other and the books will help with learning.
Rochester is full of diversity and smart people. A language center will bring us together and make us even more of a great community.
If I am Mayor I would focus on the daycare centers. I would mix the daycare centers with the nursing homes because the older kids can talk to and play cards with the older people who live there. The limits for the youngest kids would be 2 years of age they would be allowed at this center.
We don’t have many daycare centers in Ely and I think it would be nice to connect them with the nursing homes because they would keep the elderly people happy and looking forward to the day ahead. The 2, 3, 4, and 5-year-old people can keep the elderly entertained, laughing, and happy. Then the 6 and older kids can play cards, talk to and socialize with the elderly people and walk around and relax with the nursing home people. The kids will keep the elderly people moving and have the attention they want and the nursing home would be a happy place full of laughter, not a sad place full of loss like what people see the nursing home as.
This would be a perfect place to have a daycare to make the people there laugh and enjoy their life to the fullest to the end and not give up but look forward to the next day.
6th Grade, ELK RIVER
Excerpt from Favor’s essay: I would dedicate my time to making small homes for those who couldn’t afford to stay in one place, and for those on the street. They would be small, box-like homes made with affordable, highly available resources. … A house is great, but a home is amazing. Let’s make our community feel amazing, feel at home.
6th Grade, HARTLAND
Excerpt from Scarlett’s essay: If I were mayor for a day, I would build an environmentally friendly, all-inclusive splashpad for the city of New Richland and surrounding communities. … There are also many safety perks to having a splash pad instead of a local pool. … Plus, a splash pad is fun for all ages and abilities.
6th Grade, ZIMMERMAN
Excerpt from Paxton’s essay: I would focus on our hero’s such as our Police and our Fire departments. I would set up a little community based meal house where volunteers would make meals to send over to Police and Fireman.
4th Grade, ROCHESTER
Excerpt from Elliana’s essay: The first thing I would do as mayor is build an animal bridge on Bamber Valley Road. … The second thing I would do … would be establishing a statue honoring the indigenous people who were here before us.