SOUTH ORANGE, NJ-- When Gunjan Jacinto, 9, raised her hand to ask that day’s guest speaker a question it was just another day in the third-grade class of Ms. Feinberg and Ms. Sinnicke at South Mountain Elementary. She had no idea that it would lead to something much bigger.
The guest speaker that day was South Orange Village President Alex Torpey. Gunjan’s question was simply stated: “Can a woman become a village president?” Torpey recalls Gunjan being delighted with his response.
At Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting, Gunjan will become the first student to become “Village President for a Day” in South Orange.
One student per month will be selected to be the honorary village president for a day at a BOT meeting. The student will get to do a various amount of things such as calling the meeting to order, leading the pledge of allegiance, and will have the opportunity to give a speech if they would like.
“This is a great chance to spotlight some of our brightest young minds in our schools, and help them learn more about local government,” Torpey said.
In a brief interview, Gunjan mentioned the likes of Gov. Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton and Indira Gandhi, a woman who served two terms as India’s prime minister. When asked if she thinks the United States should elect its first female president, Gunjan nodded and said, “There’s too many boys.”
Aside from an interest in social studies, Gunjan lists math and science as her two favorite school subjects. She hopes to become a scientist when she grows up.
Outside of the classroom, Gunjan enjoys taking gymnastics at the Maplewood YMCA, which she has done for two years.
Lester Jacinto, Gunjan’s father, thinks that the initiative is a great community builder.
“I think this is a good attempt and I hope it works to get the community more involved and to get kids in schools more aware of government,” he said. “They learn about it in textbooks in school and sometimes it’s hard to relate. I think this is a great idea.”
Gunjan’s first decree as village president? “No school on Fridays,” she says with a smile and a laugh. What can you say? She caters to her base.