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State Honoree

Emily Mathes

Mississippi

Emily Mathes, 13, of Vicksburg Junior High School in Vicksburg, Mississippi, lobbied local government to restore an abandoned and neglected neighborhood park that had been a hangout for drug dealers. She worked for more than a year to enlist the support of the community, from whom she collected signatures on petitions, and the city administration, who recently approved Emily's plan for the purchase of the land, safe playground equipment, and maintenance. She has recruited several of her fellow classmates to clean up the park, and has worked with the city architect on an appropriate design for the restored site. "I think that children deserve a clean, safe place to play," said Emily, who adds that she will continue to cut through the red tape until the day she sees children playing in the park.