By: Kristyne E. Demske, Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers
MACOMB COUNTY — Lake Shore High School senior Kayla McCuen was recently awarded the top prize in Macomb County’s inaugural “I Voted” sticker design contest.
Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Fred Miller said a total of 525 entries were submitted from students in 14 Macomb County school districts, as well as private and home-schooled students. A total of 64 entries were selected as finalists, ultimately reviewed remotely by a panel of judges that included judges from the Macomb County Circuit Court, members of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, city and township clerks, and representatives from the Macomb Intermediate School District and the county arts community.
Student designs were evaluated on the interpretation of the theme, “Your Vote, Your Future,” along with clarity, artistic creativity and the ability to create a design that would look good on a 2-inch diameter sticker.
“We wanted to do something to help teachers start a conversation with students about civic responsibility and the different ways people can participate in our democratic process,” Miller said. “This seemed like a cool way to engage students. The fact that we had 525 entries from 14 school districts, plus charter schools and home schools, was very encouraging.”
Miller said his office received positive feedback from district teachers, who started collecting designs in January and February. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic became hit, the contest became a tool for engagement because teachers were challenging their students remotely.
Teachers used it as an education tool — to teach students why voting matters and how a sticker can be “a badge of pride,” Miller said.
“We know that nobody’s born a ‘good’ voter or a ‘bad’ voter,” he said. “Voting is a learned habit. The thought is that the more we can talk about this to young people … the fact that we can have those discussions early, I believe that helps form these habits. And I don’t mean ‘good’ voters who vote one way or another.”
McCuen said that she entered the contest because it was assigned by her advanced art teacher. A self-professed “fast worker,” McCuen said that she spent about three days pulling the design together. She said she wanted hers to stand out from the crowd.
The 2020 graduate said that learning she had won the contest was a welcome bit of good news in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Quarantine has been really rough on me,” she said, explaining that her mom first called her to ask if she had entered a contest and told her that she was a finalist. “I was like, that’s cool, whatever.
“A few days later, I got a call from my mom again and she was so excited. She was like, ‘You won! You won! You did it!’ and I was like, what did I win?’”
She didn’t realize how large the contestant pool was until she saw her winning design being shared on social media.
“I was like, wow, OK, this is actually pretty cool,” McCuen said.
She has worked as an election worker in the past and got to vote in her first election in March. She said she thinks it will be cool to see her design grace the stickers they hand out to voters this year.
McCuen’s design, which features two hands cradling the words “Your Vote Matters,” will be featured at local clerks’ discretion in upcoming Macomb County elections in August and November.
Second- and third-place winners are both from the Warren Consolidated Schools district: eighth grader Isabelle Deng, from Grissom Middle School in Warren; and Noora Koraeel, a junior at Sterling Heights High School. Elaina Johnson, a second grader from Hevel Elementary of the Romeo Community Schools in Washington Township, was recognized as an honorable mention.
McCuen plans to study art and graphic design at Wayne State University in the fall.
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Throughout his career, Fred Miller has served the people of Macomb County at the federal, state, and local levels, currently as Macomb County Clerk & Register of Deeds