Kaylee Buckley, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, poses for a photo Wednesday in the Craig City Council chambers with Mayor Terry Carwile. Kaylee is one of four state winners of the Colorado Municipal League’s “If I Were Mayor” essay contest.

Photo by Bridget Manley

Kaylee Buckley, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, poses for a photo Wednesday in the Craig City Council chambers with Mayor Terry Carwile. Kaylee is one of four state winners of the Colorado Municipal League’s “If I Were Mayor” essay contest.

CMS student Kaylee Buckley a state winner in 'If I Were Mayor' essay contest

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At a glance ...

• A Craig Middle School eighth-grader is one of four students in Colorado to win top honors in a Colorado Municipal League essay contest.

• Kaylee Buckley was recognized for her submission in the “If I Were Mayor” contest.

• The competition requires entrants to learn about local government and how it affects the services they use.

• Kaylee will receive $500 for college and is invited to present her essay during the Elected Officials Luncheon on June 22 in Breckenridge.

Kaylee Buckley could see clearly two characters in her mind when she wrote her submission to the “If I Were Mayor” contest this spring.

One was a farmer, “an old guy in coveralls,” she said, who was complaining to his local city council about having to pay taxes.

The other was the mayor himself, who explained that taxes go to pay for a broad range of services, from roads to parks.

It was, in some ways, an experiment in conflict resolution.

“I just had to find a way to resolve the problem,” Kaylee said, recalling the prompt for the essay contest sponsored by the Colorado Municipal League.

Flash-forward to Craig Middle School's eighth-grade graduation ceremony Monday night.

“When I was standing there, my heart was beating really fast,” Kaylee said.

She’d just been told her essay was one of four top finishers in the state. “I couldn’t believe it,” she said.

The Municipal League, which advocates for municipal governments at the state capitol, invited Kaylee to the Elected Officials Luncheon on June 22 during the organization’s annual conference in Breckenridge.

There, she’ll be recognized by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and will have the chance to present her essay.

Kaylee also will receive $500 to establish a college fund through CollegeInvest, a nonprofit division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

If the 14-year-old was elated at the news, she had good company.

David Morris, CMS eighth-grade English teacher, said he was “really excited” to learn about the recognition.

Kaylee is the first student to earn state recognition in a writing contest in Morris’ more than 20 years at CMS, he said.

The school has received local support for other essay contests.

“But now to have a kid who took it to that next step — that was very exciting,” he said.

Craig Mayor Terry Carwile said the same.

Kaylee’s achievement is “a pretty big deal,” he said, and a “pretty big accomplishment.”

He and other Craig City Council members chose the top four “If I Were Mayor” entries in seventh and eighth grades last month, and Morris sent their selections to the state level.

“I was really encouraged to see that they have an awareness of how municipal government works,” Carwile said. “They understand that there’s a connection between local government and the quality of life in the community, and that’s good to see."

In Morris’ view, Kaylee’s success at the state level reinforces the message he and other middle school teachers are trying to get across to students: that writing has a purpose outside of class assignments.

“I want these kids to see real-world writing,” he said. “I want kids to see that writing can be meaningful and rewarding — literally rewarding.”

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