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Posted on: May 18, 2021

Mayport Naval Station eighth-grader wins Florida mayors’ essay contest

Eighth-grader Layla McLaren says that if she were her community’s mayor, she would focus her efforts on public IMG_8020safety, anti-crime, anti-drug use, and anti-poverty initiatives.

 The Seaside Community Charter School student and Naval Station Mayport resident says that improving access to early childhood education and parenting classes also would go a long way toward improving community standards and everyone’s quality of life.

 The Florida League of Mayors and Florida League of Cities are so impressed with Layla’s vision that the organizations awarded her first place in the statewide “If I Were Elected Mayor” essay contest. 

 The essay also won kudos from Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

“I found your essay to be very thoughtful in connecting early education and parenting education to quality of life …” Glasser said in a congratulatory letter to Layla. “You certainly are an example to others.”

Glasser and Curry both suggested that McLaren will someday be an exceptional mayor, if she chooses.

“It is clear in your essay that the idea of public service comes naturally to you,” Curry wrote to Layla. “Your compassion, your care and concern for the well-being and success of your friends is admirable.”

Glasser noted that as a military family, Layla and her parents make regular sacrifices as part of protecting the country.

“On behalf of our City, let me say thank you …” Glasser wrote. “I hope that winning this award inspires you to always be your best and to consider the importance of public service. Maybe one day you will be a mayor, too!” 

Layla was honored amid pomp-and-circumstance last week at a school ceremony attended by the Florida League of Cities’ Scott Dudley, whose duties include serving as the Florida League of Mayors executive director.

Dudley said nearly 500 middle school students competed in the annual contest. The second- and third-place winners attend schools in Dunedin and Aventura.

All of the top finishers’ essays will be published in the League of Cities’ “Quality Cities” magazine.

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