Schar School Student’s Essay Wins First Vespa/Mason Contest

A young woman on a blue scooter gazes at the camera over the handlebars.
Schar School student Sara Michels and her midnight blue 2009 Vespa LX50. Photo by King W. Gillespie Photography

Many students gripe about having to write an essay as part of a class. But in Sara Michels case, her 500-word composition about how a motorized scooter would help her studies and change her life won her a 2009 Vespa LX50 valued at $1,625.

Michels is in her final year of the Master’s of International Security program at the Schar School, which means the adorable midnight blue scooter, which tops out at 30 miles an hour, will come in handy for tooling around Mason Square.

“I wrote about how I was planning on moving to Arlington soon, and having a Vespa to transport myself to and from school would really give me an affordable way to get myself and my books to and from campus,” she said.

Michels’ prized wheels—she’s yet to name “her,” she said, but Blueberry and Midnight are in the mix—are the first to be won in a collaboration among George Mason University’s Mason Square complex, nearby Vespa dealership LaMoto of Washington, and the Vespa Committee of Washington, D.C., a nonprofit for Vespa enthusiasts.

“The idea for the Vespa club’s scooter gifting grew out of a conversation with staff at LaMoto of Washington,” said Vespa Committee spokesman Dave Mangano. “During the pandemic, individuals were calling asking about selling or for trade-in values for small, used 50cc Vespa.”

With a surfeit of scooters at hand, the idea to start a donation program arose and Mason “seemed like a natural partner, given their urban campus location in Arlington,” he said.

The Vespa Committee is a self-described “diverse group of scooterists who celebrate Italian/American culture.” (Vespa is made by Italy’s Piaggio.) As part of her prize, Michels has been trained by club members on how to properly care for and safely ride her scooter.

Michels said she can’t wait to “go on evening rides with the other Vespa owners in the area.”

Mangano said another Vespa earmarked for a Mason essayist is due for delivery in November. For information about the program, see this page.