By Kathy Clayton
The Ashland Beacon
Most 11-year-old boys might not be so tuned in to the love, support, and presence of grandparents in their lives. But then, most 11-year-old boys haven’t had the rocky start that Brayden Stefanich has.
Brayden expressed his feelings for his grandmother in an essay for the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association and AARP Kentucky’s Grandparent of the Year essay contest. His teacher, Kristy Minton, asked all of her students to submit essays.
“I read through them all with our librarian, Amanda Cole,” she said. “There were several really good ones, but when we read Brayden’s, we knew it was the one we wanted to represent our school.”
You see, Brayden’s parents struggle with drug addiction, and he has lived with his grandparents since he was 18-months-old.
The contest is only open to fifth-graders. After winning the school contest, his essay was selected by the Boyd County Retired Teachers Association and sent to the district, where it also won. His essay is currently being judged at the state level with other essays from across Kentucky.
“When we found out he won, our principal, Mr. Tolbert, made it seem like something really serious and called him down to the office,” said Ms. Minton.
“I was scared – he made it seem like I was in trouble, then he said it was me that I was the winner,” said Brayden. “I’m proud of myself. I really put some effort into it. It came out of my heart.”
His teacher noted that the news of winning the district came at a good time for the family. When she texted the information to his grandmother, Laurie Jenkins, was at the hospital with Brayden’s mother, who was dealing with a serious medical issue. “She started crying.”
Ms. Minton said the entire school, teachers and students alike, are proud of Brayden for winning the district. “The whole school is so proud and is behind him 100 percent. He’s gotten a lot of good feedback. He’s a really good kid, a good student, and has a really good heart. You can tell he’s thankful.”
She said most of the children really enjoy writing, and they were all encouraged to enter the contest. “We asked them where they would be without this person in their life – we wanted them to really think about it.”
In his essay, Brayden praised his grandmother for stepping in. “When I was one, my mom went to jail and my mamaw came to save me,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, I’ve had to deal with several sad situations in my life. With my mom and my dad fighting the addiction of drugs daily and in and out of jail, my mamaw has been my constant savior.”
Brayden said he wants to be a lawyer when he grows up. “I like investigating cases.”
Winning the grandparent essay contest is nothing new for Ms. Minton. Her students have won locally on five occasions, and one of them placed first at the state level in 2015.
Brayden, along with his beloved grandmother, will be honored by the Boyd County Retired Teachers Association at their meeting this Thursday at the Ashland Elks Club.