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Diplomat Middle student’s essay takes first in national competition

By Staff | May 30, 2019

Alyssandra Lanese enjoys pushing herself and entering essay and scholarship competitions.

The first one the 13-year-old won just happened to be a national contest.

In fact, the Diplomat Middle School student didn’t just win-she won first place.

“I thought it would be a great idea,” Lanese said. “It was an interesting prompt and I thought I’d give it a shot.”

In addition to a letter of congratulations, Lanese also won a Nextbook seven-inch Tablet with eight GB of memory with Google Mobile Services.

The prompt for the sixth annual Dr. Barbara Seniors Harkins Foundation Essay Contest was to imagine that you could give advice to someone, whether you know them personally, they’re a historical figure, or a they’re a famous person alive today.

Lanese wrote to the CEO of Waste Management to propose an idea to help not only her community, but the world as well.

“Lately I’ve been noticing posts on social media and I’ve seen around the community that it is filled with trash,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Well, if I can give some advice to the CEO, maybe I can make a difference in the community.'”

The idea for her essay came to her when she saw that waste from garbage trucks sometimes gets flown out of the truck onto the grass and the street.

“It’s being blown everywhere,” she said. “It will eventually get into oceans, lakes and ponds and hurt the ecosystem. It can also get into forests, and wildlife would try to consume it and it would hurt the ecosystem.”

Lanese proposed an idea to reinvent the truck and install a camera on the back to alert the driver of any trash that’s flown away.

In the essay, she also talked about how we can help the community at large.

Another one of Lanese’s ideas was to partner with a company like NASA to make satellites that would help locate and collect extra trash. She also thinks a partnership like that could help us organize trash in a better, more productive way.

“I’ve been thinking about it for awhile,” she said. “If you look in any neighborhood, there is trash everywhere. Turtles are getting stuck in plastic, and they consume straws that get stuck in their noses.”

Lanese says she’s always been an advocate for the environment. When she was younger, she used to spend a lot of time outside. Sometimes Lanese even walks around her neighborhood and picks up trash. Every little bit helps.

Lanese also likes to help animals and the strays that need a home.

“I try and make our community the best it can be,” she said.

Lanese says her mother has always encouraged her to do her best and work hard, and she’s always loved school, ever since she was little.

“I can engage myself and learn a lot more,” she explained. “Even though learning doesn’t seem fun for everyone, it is fun for me and I love going to school.

“I feel like at school I can really work hard to do better things and better myself.”

When she grows up Lanese would like to either be an astronaut or an actress-two things she knows are on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Since sixth grade, Lanese has had a passion for acting, and she likes to learn about new things and discover things for herself-a couple of the reasons learning about space appeals to her.

Out of 60 applicants, Lanese’s English teacher, Quinn Schnabel, said her win was amazing.

“It did surprise me,” she said. “Because it was nationwide.”

Lanese sought out Schnabel after school to help her with the 300-to-500-word essay.

She asked her teacher, who also taught her Creative Writing in sixth grade, to look over the prompt and guidelines. Lanese came to Schnabel with the essay already completed.

“She asked me to give advice if anything needed to be added and removed and also asked for help with grammatical errors.”

After reading it, Schnabel admits she was intrigued.

“Alyssandra is absolutely an amazing student,” she said. “I wish I had a full class of her.”

“The environment is a big concern of hers. It’s so neat that she saw a problem in her community and tried to come up with a solution to fix that.”

Schnabel said Lanese is overall a great student.

“She’s mature and driven,” she said.

Even as a sixth grader, Schnabel says Lanese was very mature.

“She’s the kind of kid who’s very involved in every aspect of school,” she explained. “She plays sports. She’s not just singular focused.”

It’s clear Lanese enjoys school.

“She participates. She definitely asks questions,” Schnabel said. “She’s the kind of kid who has straight A’s and is in the top of class and still comes to tutoring because she feels like there are things she can improve on.”

Schnabel said Lanese is also a humble student.

“She was very excited to share the essay with me personally. She wasn’t one to go out and tell all her friends.”

There’s no doubt Schnabel is going to miss her next year when she goes to high school.

“The rest of her teachers say the same things about her,” she said.

Alyssandra Lanese’s mom, Pam Lanese, said she’s always encouraging her daughter to enter into scholarship and essay competitions.

When she heard the voicemail that said Alyssandra won the competition, she was excited and she couldn’t believe it.

“Her teachers wrote in her yearbook and it was always about what a wonderful person she is and how she has such a beautiful soul and it just melts my heart that other people see her the way I do,” Pam Lanese said.

“We know this is just the beginning of her story and her success.”