In her winning essay, Carson Middle School student Samantha Lowe wrote that as she reads the newspaper she sees the same people performing one community service after another.
"It seems only about 2 percent of the people are doing 80 percent of the work," she said. "I bet they want some help. I would."
Lowe read her essay to members of the Carson City School Board on Tuesday evening as part of the school district's annual American Citizen Essay contest.
This year's theme was: What I would do to make Carson City a better place to live.
Lowe said that while other teens may suggest a skate park or monster mall, she urged the community come together in "civic-minded goodwill."
"The social aspect of teamwork," she read, "can really make labor less laborious."
She encouraged people to find a way to get involved.
"Every edition of the Nevada Appeal includes people asking for help in some pretty worthy causes," she wrote.
There were 245 entries in this year's contest, 71 from the elementary level, 74 from the middle schools and 100 from high school students.
Winners received $250 savings bonds, donated by the Carson City School Board and Wells Fargo and read their essays at the meeting.
Second- and third-place winners received $10 gift certificates and were also recognized at the meeting.
Mark Twain's Alexandra Siple, winner at the elementary school level, said the city should invest in wind energy, farmers markets, an art museum and a community garden.
"It's always great to buy fruits and vegetables from this exciting place," she wrote about the farmers market.
Camilla Dudley, the Carson High School winner, proposed a simple solution.
"I'll stop complaining and criticizing," she wrote. "I'll smile more. I'll serve more."
She said gratitude would bring about a shift in attitudes.
"If more appreciation were shown ... Carson City would be a better place to live."