By Alex Lippa
Students in the city's public schools are not old enough to vote, but they still have a chance to influence Haverhill's elected officials.
They'll do it by exercising the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words."
Haverhill's Brightside organization is hosting two contests designed to see what Haverhill's young people would like to see improved in their city.
"It is like putting hundreds of scouts in the field to find out the problems and solutions of the city," said City Council President John Michitson.
The Green Business Idea contest was organized by Michitson last year to let students show their ideas during the Haverhill Goes Green environmental event. He wanted students to design a new business idea that would positively affect the environment and also could be a viable business. He has expanded that idea by creating a new contest which was based on the foundation of last year's contest.
"This year, we are asking students how we can make Haverhill a more sustainable city," Michitson said. "Are we still running things like they were in the 20th century or do we need to expand ourselves?"
The "Intelligent City Through Your Eyes" contest is open to students in grades five to 12 and is designed to find a need or opportunity to strengthen the school, community or economy. Brightside has loaned cameras to students so they can take a photo of an image that represents a need or an example of an intelligent solution to a problem. Students will take a photo and create a caption of 100 words or less to go along with the image.
Students must upload their photos to Facebook or Shutterfly by April 15. The photos will be displayed at the Haverhill Goes Green fair on April 29 where judges will decide on the winners. Winners in each grade level will receive a cash prize and a chance to present their ideas to the School Committee or City Council.
At Consentino Middle School, several students have already expressed ideas about what they would like to see changed at their school.
"I hope to see the lockers improved," said seventh-grader Jenna Solimine. "My locker doesn't shut and others need to be fixed and repaired. I've gotten things stolen from my locker and that's frustrating."
"I thought that we could use the greenhouse more often," said fifth-grader Kayla Adams. "We can use it more for projects in science."
The greenhouse is located in the school's courtyard and is primarily used during an after-school program. Adams hopes students can use it as part of their classroom science lessons.
The Green Business Idea contest will continue this year, but with a twist. The contest is open to high school students. This year the winners will receive money geared toward making their project a reality.
"We are really trying to find the next entrepreneurs of Haverhill," Michitson said. "We are always trying to draw companies into the city and market the city to entrepreneurs. With this, we also want to start growing them."
The two contests are related. Michitson hopes ideas from the Intelligent City contest can eventually be developed into concrete ideas in the Green Business Idea contest.
"We thought that the photo contest could achieve the end goal to help inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs, but we could do it in a less complicated way to match the level that they are currently at," Michitson said.
Last year, Brightside awarded $3,400 to 12 winners in the Green Business Idea contest. First-place winners included Benjamyn O'Brien for "A Chemical Free City;" Lissangy Rodriguez for HOW (a how-to, online magazine for kids, by kids); Jessica Sarro for "Reuse Your Wrappers;" and Ricardo Pereira and Pablo Molina for "The Solar Powered Pool/Hot Tub."
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