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"A Vision for Grand Island & Becoming Mayor for a Day" - The GIPS Cast, Ep. 036

There is power in student voices.

What’s more, a handful of our GIPS 6th Grade Scholars found their voices showcased on our community’s biggest stage.


Because they leaned into their creativity and were bold enough to share their vision for our community.

Earlier this Spring, The Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Grand Island approached us at GIPS asking if we’d be interested in participating in a new student-focused endeavor they hoped could become an annual event.  They called it the, “Grand Island 6th Grade Mayor for a Day Essay Contest”.

City 6th Graders could submit, at no cost, a 400-word essay answering two questions:

  1. What do I love most about Grand Island?
  2. What changes would you make by the year 2030?

Truly a fun exercise designed to amplify area student voices.

As a result, Grand Island Public Schools is pleased to share that out of a field of nearly 90 submissions, GIPS students claimed three of the top eight essay placements with an additional one an honorable mention.

And most notably, one of our own 6th Graders, Saybel Raez Almaguer from Walnut Middle School, was the grand, overall winner.

His prize?

He gets to be “Mayor for a Day” later this month alongside Grand Island Mayor, Roger Steele.

But what’s even more impressive was Saybel’s essay itself, his selfless approach to casting a vision for his home community, and how he seeks to support all people in feeling welcome and supported.

In this episode, Saybel shares his story and reads his full award-winning essay. 

Because our students, if we let them, will help show us the way.

You may listen to the latest episode above or subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or your favorite podcast platform.



"Grand Island, with its tangible history and welcoming people, has always been more than just a place on the map for me; it’s a piece of home that resonates with every beat of my heart. Here, where the Platte River meanders calmly and sunsets paint the sky with strokes of fire, lies a magic that accompanies me wherever I go.

My affection for Grand Island was made since I first got here. I got it when I see how welcoming this city was to me and how it treated me even though I came as a guest. So, since the years have passed, I got this vision of a future filled with prosperity for our community to make it even better, to uplift our beloved city.

I envision breathing new life into our local economy with examples like lowering the city’s taxes, paving the way for innovation and providing solid support for small businesses. I picture a Grand Island that welcomes entrepreneurs with enthusiasm and offers them the necessary tools for their businesses to thrive. Also, investing in technical and vocational education to be equipping our youth for the challenges of the future, ensuring that our city maintains its relevance in the whole of Nebraska.

Environmental management is another dream I have for Grand Island. We are guardians of this land, and it is our responsibility to protect it for future generations. Adopting renewable energies and promoting water conservation are not just ecological measures; they are steps toward a sustainable legacy that will also bring economic benefits and new job opportunities.

The safety and well-being of our neighbors are paramount. I’m too young to be a mayor, and being honest I think it’s too much for me, but another idea I have of how to make Grand Island better is to strengthen emergency services, ensuring that our everyday heroes have everything they need to take care of us. Crime prevention programs and community participation would be key to maintaining a safe environment for everyone.

Grand Island is also a place I carry in my heart for the good moments I lived here making friends and bonds. So, by having to have fun together, we can build bridges and form stronger bonds among us. Let’s imagine public spaces that invite coexistence, laughter and sharing, places that unite us even more as a community, like more inside places to have fun in the winter – not only Spring City.

In summary, my passion for Grand Island is as constant as the waters of its rivers. This city has shaped my values and my vision of what you, and I mean all of us, can achieve together. Because together we can take our beloved city to new heights, being a beacon of progress and unity for Nebraska and beyond."


GIPS Cast podcast graphic with episode title and headshot of Saybel.