AUGUSTA — Middle school students from Cumberland, Hampden and Madison emerged as winners in Maine Municipal Association’s fifth annual statewide essay contest, which carried the theme: “If I Led My Community …”

Part of MMA’s Citizen Education program, the contest asked students to demonstrate how they would improve their hometowns and cities if they held positions of local leadership. Some 172 essays were submitted from seventh-grade students across the state. Essays were judged based on knowledge of municipal government; writing quality and clarity; and originality.

The winners are Abigail Jean Steinberg, of Greely Middle School in Cumberland; Meghan Ireland, of Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden; and, Jeffrey Daniels Parquette, of Madison Junior High School. Each student will receive a certificate and a $250 prize to be used for educational purposes. The awards will be bestowed by municipal officials in their hometowns.

Winning entries also will be published in the May issue of the Maine Townsman, MMA’s monthly publication, which is mailed to 4,400 municipal officials statewide and posted online at www.memun.org.

MMA’s Citizen Education program aims to educate citizens of all ages about the importance, accessibility and effectiveness of municipal government. The essay contest and high school curriculum developed in 2011, with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates, have the dual purpose of educating young people about local government and encouraging them to get involved as future elected or appointed officials, or as municipal employees.