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Student’s letter to Cook wins a trip to nation’s capital

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Garett Cundick, 14, wrote a letter, and now he's going to Washington to rub shoulders with bigwigs, stay at a fancy hotel and eat fine cuisine - free.

Last January, Garett's eighth-grade U.S. history teacher at Hillside Middle School assigned the class to write a letter to their congressman on a topic of their choice. Garett wrote to Rep. Merrill Cook, R-Utah, about instituting a flat tax.The teacher, Sheree Marcus, entered the letters in a national contest, and two months later, Garett was informed that he would represent Utah at the ninth annual RespecTeen National Youth Forum later this month.

More than 13,000 students nationwide entered the contest, 190 from Utah.

Garett will visit with Cook, congressional staffers and lobbyists, stay at the Marriott two blocks from the White House, sightsee, and attend a party his last evening there with 50 other youths representing the other states and the District of Columbia (last year's party was held at the Hard Rock Cafe).

Not a bad reward for writing a letter.

"They are treated very well," said Dave Rustad, a spokesman for the Lutheran Brotherhood, sponsor of the contest and youth forum.

Garett's stepfather, Mike Merback, gave him the idea for the letter. "I pay a lot of taxes, so that's real close to my heart," said Merback, president of Tech-Steel. "I kind of put the seed in his brain, and he and his mom got on the Internet and got a bunch of information."

Garett also spent a week in the school library with his classmates researching his topic. Then he wrote the letter, and his mother, Dixie Cundick-Merback, edited it.