On Monday, March 21, Wilton 4th grader Elyse Pencu won the title of Wilton Ms. President at the Ms. President US 4th annual election.
The Ms. President program allows girls in grades 4th through 8th to “learn about public speaking, diplomacy and listening skills, local/state/federal government, and women’s history while having an opportunity to meet and greet exemplary female leaders.” At the end of the program, participants present a campaign platform and speech. The audience judges their presentation and public speaking skills and elects a winner.
The 9-year-old Pencu focused her presentation on the issue of littering. She became interested in the problem when her family started exploring the Wilton trails as a way to get out of the house during quarantine last March.
“I knew littering was a problem but I didn’t know it was everywhere,” Pencu told GOOD Morning Wilton.
In her presentation, she educated listeners on the negative effects of littering, and how to reduce it to have a more positive impact on the environment.
“You’re having chicken wings on the go! Yum! When you’re done? Well, throw them out the window of course. NO!! One wing can have a huge impact on other animals and people, too!” her presentation slides read.
One of Pencu’s campaign promises included organizing litter clean-up events for the community to get kids more active in environmental care.
She proposed a litter clean-up contest for her school. Pencu suggested that kids clean up litter in their own neighborhoods and send pictures to their teacher as evidence. The class with the most litter cleaned up would be rewarded with a pizza party.
“Kids my age, lots of them don’t do something unless there’s something in it for them,” she said, explaining the pizza party element.
She also hopes to use her platform as Ms. President to continue raising awareness about littering and how it hurts humans and animals.
Pencu and other girls in the program have heard from local-, state-, and federal-level women leaders over the year ranging from Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice to U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes (CT-5). Some activists also spoke to program participants about using their voices to advocate for what they believe in.
“It was really cool hearing these people speak about how they helped to make a difference”, Pencu recalled.
Listening to the presentations of her competitors on Ms. President election day allowed Pencu to think about how she could improve her presentation.
“I was comparing them to my own and seeing what they did that I didn’t, and if I wanted to add that in the next time I ran,” she said.
Older girls that age out once they enter high school can return to the program to serve as mentors for the younger girls. Pencu was inspired by her mentor, a Ridgefield student, who helped her a lot on her presentation.
When GMW asked her if she wanted to become a Ms. President mentor in high school, Pencu replied, “Definitely!”
Although she is not set on whether to run for office as an adult, Pencu praised the program for helping her get an idea of what she could do when she grows up.