LIVINGSTON, NJ — Allison Small, a Livingston High School senior headed to Fordham in the fall, has been named as a finalist in the 26th annual Louis Bay II Future Municipal Leaders Scholarship competition, offered annually by the New Jersey League of Municipalities in order to “advance the virtues of elected and volunteer positions in municipal government while raising awareness of municipal government in general."
Small and her parents dropped into last week’s virtual township council meeting to talk about her winning essay, in which she addressed “what [her] municipal government does best”—a theme she personally selected after being inspired by changes made within the township at the suggestion of residents that included a 10-year-old girl.
During the council meeting, Mayor Rudy Fernandez acknowledged that Small was named a semifinalist in the same competition last year. He thanked her for once again praising the township for its dedication to the community and referenced a certificate Small recently received from the state recognizing the teen for her “interest in civic contributions to the community."
In her essay, which was submitted initially through the township, Small spoke about the governing body’s commitment to enhancing pedestrian safety after hearing concerns and suggestions from area residents.
“I thought it was important that the town recognized the voices of the members of the community on these issues and did what was best for the community and best for the people based on the concerns that they raised,” said Small.
One of those voices came from Gittel Grossbaum, who was 10 years old when she addressed the council about two traffic and safety issues near her residential street of North Ashby Avenue.
Concerned about the safety of her neighbors—specifically referencing those needing to cross Eisenhower Parkway while walking home from Shabbat—Grossbaum requested that the township consider installing a traffic or hazard light at the corner of North Ashby and Route 10 as well as sidewalks on the west and north sides of the Livingston Circle. (CLICK HERE to read about the young resident’s presentation.)
“I sent your essay over to my 11-year-old friend Gittel, who you quoted so beautifully, and she was thrilled to read your essay and to read her name in an award-winning essay,” said Councilman Ed Meinhardt. “So on behalf of Gittell and her parents, Zalman and Toba, I thank you for including them in that.”
Serving as mayor at the time, Councilman Al Anthony reiterated to Grossbaum that Livingston’s governing body is open to the ideas of all residents and vowed that the township would do whatever it could to remedy the issues that she and others brought to the council’s attention.
It was this commitment to not only the safety of residents but also to listening to their suggestions that inspired Small’s essay this year.
Last year, Small’s submission focused on the visible proof of the council’s dedication to the township, using the Saint Barnabas Medical Center Community Field and the Camuso Holiday Display as examples of projects that served to bring residents together to celebrate tradition and recreation.
“I was really inspired by the visible ways that the municipal government had an impact on the community, and I think that made writing this essay really easy,” she said at the time. “It was rally fun to explore how the community was able to come around to these great facilities such as the Madonna field and the Camuso display that’s on the Oval every year, and I really enjoyed being able to write about them.”
Fernandez and his fellow council members all expressed pride in Small’s interest in the township and that she exemplifies “the future of Livingston.”
Click HERE to learn more about the scholarship and the competition.