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Young resident wins GMA essay contest
Standing with GMA essay winner Avery Dekshenieks, holding award, are, from left, Dr. Bo Ryles, Craig Dekshenieks, teacher Sarah Sansbury, Fayetteville Mayor and GMA President Ken Steele and Carol Dekshenieks. - photo by For the Forsyth County News


He may be in sixth grade, but Avery Dekshenieks has some big plans for Cumming.

Dekshenieks, a Forsyth County resident who attends King’s Ridge Christian School in Alpharetta, was one of 12 winners in the Georgia Municipal Association’s “If I Were Mayor” essay contest.

In his essay, one of more than 500 received from students across the state, Dekshenieks said he would build a soccer stadium and then use funds the facility generates to make road repairs to major thoroughfares like McGinnis Ferry, Ga. 400 and Hwy. 141.

Dekshenieks wrote: “The population has become more diverse in its ethnicity. Therefore, soccer has become a very popular sport among children and adults. I would build a soccer stadium to attract a Major League Soccer team or maybe even host the World Cup.”

Dekshenieks’ father, Craig, said his son was “shocked when he won.”

“I think the biggest thing was he didn’t realize how talented a writer he was,” he said. “When he found out he won he was like, ‘Wow, I won.’

“We’re very proud of him and it was a great experience for him.”

The essay was an assignment from English teacher Sarah Sansbury.

His idea didn’t come as a surprise to Sansbury, who described Dekshenieks as “a good student, liked by his peers, overall great kid, and an awesome soccer player.”

Besides the soccer stadium, Dekshenieks wrote that he would also “build more museums and educational centers for the arts” to “bring the community better together socially.”

Sansbury said she has had her students participate in the contest for three years. Another student won in 2010.

She said it was “interesting to see how [the two winner’s] ideas were both very good, but also unique to their personality.”

She said the previous winner “who loves science, emphasized the need for science museums,” while Dekshenieks “who loves soccer, emphasized the need for a large soccer stadium.”

As one of the winners, Dekshenieks received a $250 savings bond and was recognized during a recent ceremony in Atlanta.

But Sansbury said she feels the prize is more than just monetary, noting that the contest encourages students to feel like they are a true part of their community.

“Before doing this contest, my students usually don’t think about their city and how to help it become a better place,” she said. “... I think this contest in many ways is the first time that they realize that they can make a difference and that their opinion does matter.”

Based in Atlanta, GMA is a voluntary, nonprofit organization providing legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its 500-member cities throughout Georgia.

According to a news release from GMA, a panel of city officials who are also educators or involved with youth programs selected the winning essays based on “creativity, clarity, sincerity of thought and proper use of grammar.”