WASHINGTON TERRACE — It’s been a month of firsts for 10-year-old Makayla Satterlee.
It’s the first time she met an elected official, the first time she visited the state Capitol, the first time she stood on the House floor of the Capitol during the Utah Legislative session and the first time to win $500 for her class for an award-winning essay about all her experiences.
The Roosevelt Elementary student was selected as the only fifth-grader from her school to spend a day at the Legislature with her representative, House Majority Leader, Brad Dee.
Dee said he got an epiphany, of sorts, earlier this year when he thought of the idea to take a fifth-grader from each school in his district to spend a day at the Legislature.
Fifth-graders learn about government as part of their core curriculum, so Dee thought learning more about local government would be a perfect fit. He approached both the Weber and Davis school districts about the idea and they jumped on board.
On several days, Dee spent the entire day with the student and his or her parents, touring the Capitol and then letting the student spend time with him on the floor as he voted.
He asked the students to write an essay about their experience. He then had different interns judge the essays and a winner was selected.
The winner, Makayla, received a special certificate, a visit from Dee in her classroom and a check for $500 made out to her class to spend on classroom needs.
Makayla and her family were thrilled with the entire experience.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience for us and for her,” Makayla’s mom, Monica Satterlee said of the experience.
Monica was impressed with Dee, and his assistant, regarding the way they treated their family and helped both them and their daughter learn about the workings of the Capitol.
“I had never been, so I learned a lot,” Monica said.
Makayla said the whole experience was really exciting.
“I kind of like to write, and my teacher says I am good at it,” Makayla said with a smile.
She was still shocked that she won, though. Her favorite part of the whole experience was standing on the House floor with Dee as he voted. He told her every detail of what he was doing.
Dee said he wanted to be very detailed with the students and he felt it paid off when he read Makayla’s essay.
“I thought I would read things like, ‘It was cool,’ but no, I was amazed with her writing,” Dee said. “She retained so much.”
Dee gave credit to Makayla’s parents and her teacher for helping her to succeed.
“I look into your faces and I can see the future, but it is because of your teachers,” Dee told the class as he presented the check to fifth-grade teacher Katie Amsden and Makayla.
The students were thrilled with Dee’s visit and with the check.
“Now we can get that pencil sharpener,” one of the students shouted out.
Everyone laughed, but Amsden said they probably would invest in a new one. She plans to have Makayla help advise her on how to spend the money for the classroom, but said she would like to buy some more books and perhaps some government books to help her students understand government.
She was happy to learn that Makayla had won the essay contest, especially when she read the essay and realized that Makayla had used a writing pattern she had been teaching the students all year. For her, it was rewarding to know her student had followed a successful teaching method.
Monica said it was because of Amsden that Makayla knew how to write so well. She had practiced and practiced using the writing method with many essays every week to learn how to sharpen her writing skills.
“It’s a good thing she taught her,” Monica said.
Dee also awarded honorable mentions and second- and third-place winners with smaller monetary awards. He plans to make the day at the Capitol a tradition.
The second place winner was Matt Staten of Riverdale Elementary. Matt and his teacher will receive $250.
The runner-ups were Rossi Grilz of Uintah Elementary, Connor Holland of Washington Terrace Elementary, and Ellie Fisher of South Weber Elementary. Each of these students and their teachers will receive $100.