Two student reps chosen for council seats

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WESTBROOK — High School senior Sadie Cross and junior Zainab Almatwari have been chosen to represent their classmates on the Westbrook City Council.

Council President Brendan Rielly said he will look to Cross and Almatwari to continue the strong tradition of student leadership on the council. Cross and Almatwari replace 2018 Westbrook High School graduates Ranya Al Obaidi and Maura Rielly as City Council student representatives.

Cross said since moving to Westbrook three years ago, she has “been able to experience what a true sense of citizenship, perseverance and community means.”

“The citizens here work hard to support each other in good times and bad, and the gatherings at community or school events reflect the unbreakable spirit everyone had,” Cross wrote in her application. “I want to serve on the City Council because I want to find ways to continue to grow the community’s strength, as well as the city itself.”

Cross is a member of the high school’s swim, tennis and volleyball teams, is a class of 2019 student representative and a member of the National Arts Honor Society.

In his reference for Cross, Westbrook High School health teacher Walt LeBlanc described Cross as “a top level student who always focuses on her work and seeks to get the most out of her education. She is also well respected by her peers and displays solid leadership characteristics.”

Almatwari is also involved at the high school as a student council representative a member of the National Honor Society, the writing club and math team. She is also a member of the ACLU of Maine, Olympia Snowe’s Women’s Leadership Institute and an active participant at the Telling Room, a writing center in Portland where she has published in six books.

In her application, Almatwari said she likes to share her knowledge with others and represent her peers inside and outside the school building. 

“Dedicating my skills to my school and peers has been one of the most important things that built my character as a person and a student and to take it to the next level, participating in the City Council, would be a perfect opportunity.”

Almatwari, who moved to Westbrook in March 2016 from Iraq, said living in two distinct parts of the world and observing different points of view “has helped me become a better voice for others and represent different messages and opinions, even though I might disagree in some cases.”

Brian Davis, a science teacher at the high school, said in addition to academic excellence, Almatwari has “impressed many with her patient and open-minded approach to both problem solving and working with her peers. A true humanitarian, Zainab cares about those around her and is considerate of their feelings and points of view.” He also described her as a “strong thinker” who reflects internally before sharing her thoughts.

Rielly, a councilor since 2001, said one of the things he is most proud of is having student representatives on the City Council for the past decade. While student representatives on school committees are common throughout the state, Rielly said Westbrook is the only community, to his knowledge, to allow students to have direct representatives on the council.

“We have had phenomenally talented students up here all along the way,” he said. “It’s been amazing the watch them grow and we have learned a lot from them.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 128 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews.

City Clerk Angela Holmes swears in Westbrook High School senior Sadie Cross, left, and junior Zainab Almatwari as City Council student representatives at the council’s Sept. 10 meeting.

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