The City of Airdrie announced the winner of the annual Mayor for a Day contest during the regular City council meeting on June 17.
Local Grade 6 student Neel M. was selected as this year’s winner of the coveted competition, thanks to his proposal for tactile crosswalks and walkways in Airdrie.
Tactile paving uses three-dimensional dots to inform visually impaired individuals that a crossing is approaching. Those using canes or blind rods are able to feel the bumps in the road and can proceed safely across a street or locate a sidewalk.
Motivated to create a safer community for Airdronians, Neel said he got his idea from watching a video of a woman living in the United Kingdom who was exploring a city that used tactile pavement on its streets.
The Mayor for a Day contest began in 2012, with the intent of engaging youth to share their ideas on how to make Airdrie a better place to live, said Jessica Dudek, the youth engagement programmer for the City of Airdrie, at the meeting.
The contest provides Grade 6 students – who are learning about government through the social studies curriculum – with an opportunity to learn how the City functions, specifically the project planning process and the role of municipalities. Working with their school, Grade 6 students across Airdrie are welcome to submit their applications to help improve their city, and each school is allotted three applications every year.
This year, 17 applications from six local schools were submitted to the City’s board of youth affairs, which then selected the top three candidates. The board scored the applications based on originality, detail, practicality, ease of implementation, diversity, and inclusion.
Once the top three applicants were selected, the students presented their ideas to members of the board and City council. Council and the board then selected Neel M. as this year’s Mayor of a Day winner.
“Your presentation skills, how you approached that level of detail [that] you provided council, how [the City] could implement this going forward as a community [stood out],” said Mayor Peter Brown, as he shook Neel’s hand and congratulated the student on his win.
“Looking out for those that are vulnerable was a big reason why I think you’re standing before us,” the mayor added.
Neel will serve his one-day term shadowing Brown at a later date, which has not yet been announced.
The Grade 6 student took to the mayor’s centre-table seat at the council meeting on June 13 to make a brief announcement.
“First of all, I would like to thank the mayor and all of council for this amazing opportunity and [for choosing me],” Neel said. “I will also like to thank my school and the support, and the runner-ups for their competition, [for their] equally wonderful ideas. It is such an honour to be chosen and thank you all so much.”
The runner-ups will be announced at the next regular meeting of the council on June 27.