By Stacey Dresner
WEST HARTFORD – When Myra Stanfield decided to run for Connecticut’s 2020 Kid Governor late last year, she immediately knew what her platform would be – standing up for animals in need.
“I really love animals. They are my best friends.,” says the Norfeldt Elementary School fifth-grader. “I don’t like the thought of animals feeling unloved or not safe.”
The Connecticut Kid Governor program was devised by the Connecticut Democracy Center to teach the state’s fifth graders about state government, elections, and voting via an election open to fifth grade students in public, private, magnet, charter and home schools.
“I found out about it when my teacher, Mrs. Heaton, showed us the 2019 Kid Governor’s campaign video,” explains Myra. “I was able to run because I was the school president. So, I decided I wanted to run.”
On Nov. 21 of last year, fifth grade students from all across the state elected Myra as Kid Governor.
She was inaugurated on Jan. 17 at a ceremony attended by officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. Myra’s teacher Aimee Heaton, principal Jen Derick and her entire class also attended. She was sworn in by Secretary of State Denise Merrill.
Myra now has her own office in the Old Statehouse in Hartford and her fellow Kid Governor finalists serve as her cabinet.
“Diversity is a huge part of our Cabinet – we all look different, and we all act different, but we’re all friends, and we support each other on our campaign issues,” Myra says on the ct.kidgovernor.org website.
“We’re good friends,” she said.
Myra says that being CT’s Kid Governor “is fun, but it’s busy.”
“It is very cool and I guess it is important. And it’s fun, but the weird part is that people in the store are like, ‘I know you!!’” she laughs.
Since taking office, Kid Governor Stanfield has partnered with Paws For Kids, an organization that promotes child and animal well-being through education, as well as animal-assisted interventions for Department of Children and Families (DCF) children who have experienced trauma.
She has also overseen the launch of a poster contest to promote her platform. The contest invites fifth-grade ‘artists’ from around the state to create posters demonstrating how children and their families can show kindness to animals, both at home and in shelters, where animals are waiting to be adopted by of good, loving families. Submissions to the poster contest are due April 30. Myra, her cabinet members and representatives from DCF will select 12 finalists and one grand winner. The artwork of all finalists will be included in a fundraising calendar.
Myra has been hard at work promoting the contest and fundraising to help animals.
“I went to the Aqua Turf and met some artists from around Connecticut and I got to share some of my poster contest ideas,” Myra says. “We had a dance at my school for the fifth grade… to raise money for shelters and collect food for Dogstar Rescue and the Connecticut Humane Society. There was a huge box of food that someone brought in. And then some other people brought money; some people brought cans of food for cats too.”
The fundraiser netted $700 that will be split between the Humane Society and Dogstar in Bloomfield.
Myra also plans to hold a statewide pet adoption event later in the year.
Myra lives in both West Hartford and Canton with her moms Sandy, Cindy, and Laurie, her brother Simon and her sister Carley. Not surprisingly, she also has several four-legged family members – two rescue dogs, Oliver and Mateo, and two Siamese cats, Seally and Cocoa.
Her mother Sandy Stanfield’s family have been a central part of the Hartford Jewish community since the early 1900s.
“I grew up Reform at Congregation Beth Israel. My great-great-grandfather was Meyer Elkin, one of the early rabbis at Beth Israel,” says Sandy Stanfield. “He was rabbi at Charter Oak Temple before it moved to Farmington Ave., a little bit before Rabbi Feldman. I come from a long line of Reform Jews. After moving to West Hartford I found that our kids’ friends were going to Beth El. And in order to make it a social experience that the kids could enjoy we made a very hard decision about five years ago to try Beth El. The people, the clergy, the congregants were all so warm and welcoming. It’s been a lovely experience.”
Today, Myra and her family belong to Beth El Temple, a Conservative congregation in West Hartford where, she is quick to point out, she will celebrate her bat mitzvah in June 2022. She’ll get some practice being on the pulpit when she speaks to congregants during Shabbat services on June 20, about her pro-animal mission. She will also sing “Ashrei” during services.
Of course, fulfilling her duties as Kid Governor isn’t all that occupies Myra’s time. In addition, she enjoys art – sketching, and pastels – and she plays soccer in the West Hartford Girl’s League.
As far Myra’s mother, she’s happy her daughter is meeting female leaders.
“She’s had some really good role models that have reached out her,” says Sandy Stanfield. “[State Rep.] Jillian Gilchrest and Susan Bysiewicz have reached out. And Susan Byseiwicz had Myra and her cabinet into her office [where she] told them all about Ella Grasso. There are really great role models here.”
Myra’s proud grandparents include Sandy’s father Ed Cheffetz of West Hartford; Dorothy Stanfield, who lives in Northwest Connecticut and Dick and Diana Wetherby from Massachusetts and Florida.
While Myra is enjoying her time and learning a lot about the workings of government in her role as Kid Governor, she isn’t sure if running for office is in her future. In fact, she doesn’t yet know what she wants to be when she grows up – except for one possible career – “an ice cream taster,” she says.
She is a 10-year-old after all.