MURRAY – A local sixth-grader recently won a contest that promotes civic engagement.
Addy Lusk, 11, attends Calloway County Middle School and was recently chosen as Ms President US for Murray. The organization said she won the election, which occurred on March 21 via Zoom, for the town of Murray.
Ms President US, Inc. is a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to motivating and preparing girls to aim for the highest civic leadership positions. Addy was one of several students who campaigned for the title in their hometowns, and her campaign presentation may be viewed at MsPresidentUS.org. The organization said girls from fourth to eighth grades tackled a wide range of important topics, such as reducing pollution, animal protection, diversity and many others.
Addy’s mother, Elizabeth Lusk, is a Girl Scout leader, and Addy said they both learned about the contest through her troop. After watching a few videos of past winners’ presentations and learning more about the organization, Elizabeth registered her for the contest. Since the participants were supposed to campaign on an issue about which they felt passionate, Addy chose autism awareness.
“Basically, they said you could address an issue in the campaign that you felt strongly about or wasn’t brought up in your community enough,” Addy said.
Addy said she chose her platform because her brother, Maddox, has autism. April is National Autism Awareness Month, which happens to also be the birth month for Maddox, who turned 6 last Saturday. Addy had previously written a speech about autism for her speech team, so she decided to adapt it into a campaign speech for the Ms President US. She said she got help from speech coaches Scott Bonneau – who teaches seventh grade social studies – and Jennifer Dunnaway, who teaches eighth grade social studies and serves on the Kentucky High School Speech League Board of Directors.
“I originally did this for the speech team because I had to do a speech for school,” Addy said. “My speech directors helped me revise it, edit it and get my points in there. I actually got state semifinalist with this speech, so I thought, ‘If this is what I want to talk about, why don’t I just use this speech?’”
One of the things Addy focused on in her speech was that scientists believe genetics is one of the primary causes of autism. She noted that some people believe in the myth that vaccines can cause autism even though there is no scientific evidence to support that theory.
In her speech, Addy listed Albert Einstein, Apple founder Steve Jobs and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll as historical figures believed to have had autism.
“I talked about the biases people have because there are still strong biases that people have (associated with autism),” Addy said. “Then I talked about the famous people (with autism) to prove the point that there’s no limitation to being autistic. … Autism doesn’t limit what you can do. (All people) have limits, but at the same time, autism doesn’t make those limits. You make your limits.”
Winners of Ms President US have traditionally done things like meeting with their town’s mayor to promote their cause, but Addy said those types of plans will have to be on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides some more. In the meantime, she said she hopes to promote autism awareness through social media.
“I was hoping to raise autism awareness so that people knew more about it,” she said. “I was planning to post things on social media about autism and basically talking about how people who have autism are different, but how we don’t need to treat them differently … Right now, with COVID, it’s kind of hard to do things like (public events), so as far as I’m concerned right now, I’m just posting on social media until we get restrictions lifted and it’s not as hard.”
Elizabeth said she is very proud of her daughter, adding that besides the speech team, Addy is in band, plays volleyball, participates in 4-H and makes all A’s. She also participates in a program called the “50 Yard Challenge,” in which she has mows lawns for people who can’t do it themselves.
“She’s just an awesome kid all around,” Elizabeth said, beaming. “She deserves this. I can’t say enough about her.”