2017 Essay Contest Winners!

Congratulations to our 2017 Week of the Family Essay Contest Winners!

“I should unplug and connect with my family because . . .”

Thank you so much to all the students who entered our contest and the supportive teachers and administrators who made this year’s contest such a success.  We had a record breaking year with 384 entries representing 57 schools!

We appreciate all the time and effort put forth by the Florida Writers Association in judging this year’s contest.  Thank you so much!

Scroll down to read the winning essays.

Grade Level K-2 Winners:

1st Place, Angel Jimenez, Age: 7, Grade: 1, School: Meadow Woods
2nd Place, Joshua Scherer, Age: 8, Grade: 2, School: Thornebrooke
3rd Place, Aarav Srinivasan, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Thornebrooke
Honorable Mention, Adelyn Pippin, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Thornebrooke
Honorable Mention, Gavin Browning, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Deerwood

Grade Level 3-5 Winners:

1st Place: Reagan O’Brien, Age: 9, Grade: 3, School: Homeschool
2nd Place: Kresley Reynolds, Age: 9, Grade: 3, School: Audubon Park
3rd Place: Evelyn Tewson, Age: 10, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter
Honorable Mention: Jacob Rambarran, Age: 10, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter
Honorable Mention: Ella Burnette, Age: 9, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter

Grade Level 6-8 Winners:

1st Place, Emily Echevarria, Age: 13, Grade: 7, School: Homeschool
2nd Place, Anna Lin, Age: 14, Grade: 8, School: College Park
3rd Place, Sarah Duncan, Age: 12, Grade: 6, School: Arbor Ridge
Honorable Mention, Ian Dominguez, Age: 12, Grade 6, School: Glenridge
Honorable Mention, Joseph Thompson, Age: 13, Grade: 8, School: Orlando Science

Grade Level 9-12 Winners:

1st Place, Mary Seifein, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland
2nd Place, Eric Acosta, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland
3rd Place, Keith Bates, Age: 15, Grade: 9, School: Lake Highland
Honorable Mention, Annabelle Echevarria, Age: 16, Grade 10, School: Homeschool
Honorable Mention, Joshua Fu, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland

Grade Level K-2 Winners’ Essays:

1st Place, Angel Jimenez, Age: 7, Grade: 1, School: Meadow Woods

To unplug and connect with your family means to get away from technology and spend time with your family instead. For example, I unplug by getting off my X-Box One and I connect by going out to different places with my family. This is so important because this lets us spend time with our family, have fun, and stay close to our families.

First, unplugging lets you spend time with your family. I like spending time with my family because family helps you do stuff that you can’t do by yourself. Some ways to spend time with your family are relaxing and playing outside.

Next, unplugging and connecting with your family is more fun than video games because your family can do more cool stuff than boring old video games. With your family, you can jump, flip and slide. Plus, families can make you laugh. One time, my brother made me laugh by telling me a funny joke about the Teen Titans.

Finally, unplugging and connecting lets you stay close with your family. It’s important to stay close so that you can have a good relationship with your family. For example, staying close helps you stay honest and it lets you trust your family. This helps families have a close relationship that lasts forever.

Unplugging and connecting is very important because technology only puts thing into your brain but your family puts things into your heart. So go out there and unplug and connect with your family.

2nd Place, Joshua Scherer, Age: 8, Grade: 2, School: Thornebrooke

I should unplug electronics in my home because spending more time with family is more fun than playing video games. Now a days if we are all looking on our phones or devices we will miss out on chances to make good memories.

First of all, a lot of people think watching television is fun and cool but going bike riding with my sister Isabella is way more fun than boring old t.v.!! There have been times when “Teen Titans Go” is coming on the Cartoon Network and I could go watch it, but not only will the bike ride give me good exercise, but it will make my sister happy if I go with her.

Second, i-phones and iPads can sometimes be useful. They help people communicate with relatives and friends. They also can help us tell time and get directions. I do enjoy playing games on the iPad and phone, but playing basketball with my Dad and younger brother is a better idea. When we play basketball my brother and I play against my Dad and we really like to win!

Third, my family likes to take a break from our devices on Sundays. We have family dinner together, do puzzles and visit other families who are sick or in need. I feel that this day of unplugging from electronics helps us spend more time together.

To conclude, I think family is more important that electronics and we should spend time doing things that are most important.

3rd Place, Aarav Srinivasan, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Thornebrooke

This time with my family is precious. I love them so much and want to have fun with my parents. When we unplug from devices we can play games such as UNO, Scrabble, Sorry! And Snakes and Ladders.

We go on long drives and my mother teaches me learn new words and games. I also learn new moves from my Dad when we play chess. He high fives me when I do well something a computer wouldn’t be able to. We can go out to eat ice cream instead of watching the television. We plan vacations together and count how many days until school is out and we can go on vacation. In the summer we swim in the pool. We invite family and friends to grill with us. We eat corn on the cob, chicken and watermelon.

I’m learning to play tennis and practice basketball in a park nearby. This was possible because we put away our devices and focused on sports. My mom runs, while my Dad and I like to play tennis and basketball. My Dad and I like to go to a Magic game. We hope they win always!

We go on long walks in our subdivision and meet with our neighbors. We went to visit the Disney parks and have light sabre fights with pool noodles when my friends come over. I enjoy every minute I spend with my family and friends playing, learning and growing.

Honorable Mention, Adelyn Pippin, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Thornebrooke

If I unplugged everything, what would happen? If I unplugged the TV we wouldn’t be able to watch any shows. Instead of watching TV, I could put on a live show for my family by dancing or singing. If I unplugged my iPad, how would I be able to play games? I know, I could play real games with my family and that would be more fun. If I unplugged the computer, I couldn’t write this essay, but I could go outside and ride bikes with my family instead. If I unplugged the refrigerator, all of our food would be rotten, but instead I could go strawberry picking with my family and that would be awesome. If I unplugged the washing machine, all of my clothes would be dirty, but instead of wearing the dirty clothes, I could go swimming with my family and that is my favorite thing to do! I love my family and that’s why I like to unplug everything!

Honorable Mention, Gavin Browning, Age: 6, Grade: 1, School: Deerwood

I love my family ’cause they are nice. My big brother and I play soccer and basketball “PIG”, he goes in the woods with me, and fishes with me. My dad plays PIG with me too. He helps me learn how to read and how to work on the house for pulling weeds and doing chores. My mom plays with me and teaches me a lot of stuff. We go camping a lot. My favorite place to camp is Fort Desoto.

If I could have a choice between sitting and watching videos or unplugging with my family, I would choose my family because it is more fun and more active! My top three things I would do with my family are to fish with every member, go camping with my mom and her boyfriend, and to play sports with my brother. My favorite memory with my mom is Sun and Fun (it’s a air show). My favorite memory with my dad is when we went to Disney together. My favorite memory with my brother, Tristan, is when he lets me play with his friends and takes me into the woods.

What makes my family special is that they all help each other. We all love to be outside, even if it is raining. I am thankful that I have many people that love me and are willing to play with me.

Grade Level 3-5 Winners’ Essays:

1st Place: Reagan O’Brien, Age: 9, Grade: 3, School: Homeschool

I should unplug and connect with my magnificent family because then I will have more opportunities to explore nature and play games. Furthermore, doodling on my ipad, phone, tablet, computer, and TV will destroy my essential brain cells.

When I had the opportunity to visit Blue Springs Park or stay home, my family and I chose to drive to Blue Springs Park. We caught sight of a chunky manatee, one big alligator, and two babies! I enjoyed it because the scenery was thrilling. I also enjoyed it because I got to talk with friends. And I had a lot more fun than doodling on my ipad. Instead of destroying my brain cells, I got to give my body fresh air, learn new things, and exercise.

Although electronics may be addicting to play on or watch, it is damaging my delicate brain. PBS news reported the results on a study on how electronics affect the brain. When the scientists did an MRI scan on someone’s brain that was addicted to electronics, the clever scientists found out that their brain looks similar to a drug-addict’s brain. So any electronics are kind of similar to drugs. So stay off those horrible drug-related screen objects!

2nd Place: Kresley Reynolds, Age: 9, Grade: 3, School: Audubon Park

Everyone knows it’s important to connect with your family. But why?

You should unplug and connect with your family because families don’t always last forever and kids grow up fast.

First off, families don’t last forever. Sadly, everybody has to die someday, and if a family is on electronics for an abundant amount of time, they will probably wish that they had spent more time with them. For example, I went to Savannah with my mom on a Girls Scout retreat and we went on a carriage ride together. The time I spent with her cannot be replaced by time spent on technology.

Secondly, kids don’t stay kids permanently. They grow up eventually, no matter how many times their parents tell them not to. Relating back to my last paragraph, they will pass away, and their family will yearn for more time with them. Also, adults can’t always have time with their family once they grow up. They have jobs, cooking, cleaning, and kids to keep up with, so they don’t always have the opportunity to spend quality time together. This proves that it’s good to connect with your family while you still can.

To conclude, you should unplug and socialize with your family because families don’t last forever and kids don’t stay kids for eternity. Have you connected with your family recently? I connect with my family by playing board games with them, asking how their day was at dinner, and by reading with them before bed.

3rd Place: Evelyn Tewson, Age: 10, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter

I think that the idea of unplugging to reconnect with my family is a good idea because you can learn a lot about your family and spend a lot more time with your family. I have actually experienced this subject with my family recently. I am closer with my family now that I have not been sitting in front of the TV all day. It all started when we were in a car trip to spend Christmas in the mountains. Our family felt it was a good idea and we all agreed to start right away.

At first me and my sister and brother went a little crazy without media. I felt that I made a mistake deciding to agree to this plan. But, after a while, I learned that spending time with my family is a lot more important and more fun than spending my day playing on electronics. I feel that we have grown closer to each other. Now we play fun games together and play sports. We started doing fun things together that we never thought of doing before.

If you unplug from electronics, you will find that you will really like it. It has changed my entire family. Everyone is less cranky, we are happier, more thoughtful, and best of all we have grown closer to each other and God. I am glad that we have stuck with this plan together, as a family.

Honorable Mention: Jacob Rambarran, Age: 10, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter

I should unplug and connect with my family because it is always good to get away from the screen and spend quality time with the ones you love. Technology can wait, so turn off your phones and sit down to chat with your family, and get to know each other better. Spending time with your family can have many benefits, like getting more comfortable around them, being able to assist them with anything, and to grow a strong bond with each other.

Disconnecting from electronics can also help boost your social skills with other people. Socializing with your family can help prevent families from becoming more distant from each other, and it can help everyone listen more, without any distractions. At times, technology can limit the amount of time people spend with each other because we are all into looking at screens and social media, instead of spending time with your family.

Staring down at a screen for too long can also harm your eyesight, and you would not be very active if you are sitting down playing video games. But if you stop playing video games and go outside to play catch or ride bikes with your family, you won’t have to worry about any of those problems. Not only does family come first, but you should never but any unimportant object in front of their needs. So, put your phone down, take a break, and go socialize with your family members, because it’s never too soon to bond.

Honorable Mention: Ella Burnette, Age: 9, Grade: 4, School: Hope Charter

You’re at a restaurant eating with your family but then suddenly, Beep! Beep!, your phone rings. Would you get on your phone or spend more time with your family? Immediately I would turn my phone off because your family loves you and you should love them too. Also, your family has provided you with lots of things you want and need. Finally, your family is more important than getting a thousand points on a video game!

First of all your family loves you. Why wouldn’t you love them!? Your parents would appreciate it if you could set down your controller and go do something with them! They love you which means they would also love you to unplug and go have fun with them.

Also, your family provides you with so many things. Not only do they give you cool gifts, but they’re also the reason you have food and a roof over your head and clothes on your back. The least you could do is go hang out with them for a little while. I’m sure they would love it!

Finally, your family is way more important than your video games. Saying that you would rather play a video game then spend time with your family is like saying that you want to sit on a couch all day instead of going outside and having fun.

In conclusion, you should spend more time with your family than you do on your phone.

My family works as a team by helping each other with anything and by just being ourself. When we are outside, my family and I always pay attention to anything that comes our way. We always stay together when we are outside our home. This is my whole life history.

Grade Level 6-8 Winners’ Essays:

1st Place, Emily Echevarria, Age: 13, Grade: 7, School: Homeschool

Have you ever felt distant from your family? Has social media ever distracted you from what matters the most? I believe I should unplug and connect with my family for these reasons: a family lasts forever, less distractions are better, and every day is a blessing.

Cell phones nowadays take up so much of our time, and it often distracts us. Whether it’s a new fashion trend or a viral video, we are constantly surrounded by it. Social media gives us the impression that our lives should look like the ones portrayed on the screen. When we have this mindset, we become dissatisfied with our lives, and this comparison steals our joy.

While technology can sometimes benefit our generation, it can also take over. So when we step back from it all, we will realize that our friends and families are truly much more important than our devices. Cell phones are only temporary, but our families last forever. Becoming less distracted helps us to focus on the important things like relationships with loved ones. We should always be thankful that we have a family to spend our lives with, and we should focus on loving one another. This way, we can live our lives happily, joyfully and content.

2nd Place, Anna Lin, Age: 14, Grade: 8, School: College Park

I should unplug and connect with my family because family is the most important thing in the world. My family is always there for me and I can trust them with anything. They are the most open-minded, caring and loving people out there. My family only wants to create happiness for us and the world.

Every day in this generation we get lost into the world of wires and glass screens. Constantly, necks are curved down, causing our eyes to grow weak and our hearts to shrink. “Smaller?” You may ask. Yes, our hearts grow smaller. We lose the ability to love over time and we stop appreciating the beauty of the people and nature around us. Why? All due to useless games and LED lights. Hopefully, one day our society can learn to unplug a little more and instead get lost into the heart of family instead.

Family is not something that can be replaced with a matter of money, so cherish it. Your precious iPhone 7 doesn’t need all the love you give it. Your family deserves love, so unplug and create memories buzzing with happiness.

3rd Place, Sarah Duncan, Age: 12, Grade: 6, School: Arbor Ridge

Millions of people all around the world have those special people in their lives, which they call family. However, those people also have these special electrical gadgets in their life, which they call electronics. But sometimes their electronics can take away from special family moments that can last a lifetime. We, as children, should unplug and connect with our family because it will help us get to know our family better and help us make special memories with them.

Instead of watching movies on my tablet during a road trip, my siblings and I can use our imagination to make up stories and draw pictures of the things outside. Instead of coming home after school and texting my friends, I can go outside and pass the soccer ball with my brothers. These are just a few of the many ways that I connect with my family. Unlike the average kid who spends 7 hours and 38 minutes on day on electronics, I spend very little time on mine and I have gained a closer relationship with my family.

Overall, your family members are the most important people in your life, so you spend as much time as you can with them. We should unplug and connect with our family because it will help us to get to know them better and most importantly, it will help us make special memories with them. Our family will always be there for us, so we should always be there for them.

Honorable Mention, Ian Dominguez, Age: 12, Grade 6, School: Glenridge

We’ve all been told, “Unplug from your devices! Spend time with your family,” but few of us actually take those ideas to heart. Of course, everyone should unplug from their devices because time is finite on this giant ball of rock and water and we should spend as much time with our family as possible, because we can’t do anything to get the precious time of our lives back, but many of us don’t recognize the beauty all around us until it’s gone.

Another reason to put down the technology is that you can learn so much from your family members. You might not have heard the story of when your dad went skydiving, or about the time your mom met her best friend, but if you take the time away from the screen to ask, you’ll learn all sorts of amazing things! Just by turning off the computer or any electronic devices, you can connect with the incredible people right there in your home, rather than embracing strangers online.

Finally, putting the phone down could save your life. Your health will be at risk if spend your life staring at a screen all day long. By simply unplugging and stepping away from the tech, you can start living your life to the fullest and help those around you do it as well!

Honorable Mention, Joseph Thompson, Age: 13, Grade: 8, School: Orlando Science

Wasted time is something that no-one wants to accrue. Especially time that could have been spent with family. So it is vital to make every moment count. Sometimes, it is okay to be online, to play a game, use social media, it adds a little spice to life. But good meals aren’t made solely of spices, and it is important to unplug every once in a while. It may seem hard to believe, but eventually, friends will falter, leave, but family will almost always be there. You only get one family, and you can’t switch it out, so make the most of the time you have. A five-year perspective reveals why this is important, by five years from now, you will most likely forget all the current posts, the popular games, the hot new fads, what you ate, what you wore. What you will remember, is good times, memories, pleasant remnants of the past, a smile. You will remember the general aspects of your life. So unplug, smile, get to know your family, your parents, you never know what you’ll find out. Try to lift your eyes up and smile. A special moment with family is worth more than all the time in the world.

Grade Level 9-12 Winners’ Essays:

1st Place, Mary Seifein, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland

Today in the 21st century, where everything is technology based, social interaction is dominating human interaction. Family is a very important aspect in our daily lives and human interaction is underrated. Have you ever been in a situation you are sitting with family, talking to them while they are on their phone? First off, it’s not the most polite and civilized manner to be on your phone, while someone is talking to you. We become so indulged in the comfort of social interaction as if it is the norm. People should learn to “unplug and connect with their family.” Whether it’s on vacation or at the dinner table, people should restrain from the temptation of social media and instead have a real human connection. Interacting through your smartphone involves few senses. Interacting in person involves many senses and allows you to understand people better.

Another important aspect that can be shown through human interaction versus social interaction is emotion. One cannot fully read emotions through text messages, but rather through communication in reality. Person to person communication can build rapport. Human interaction is a better way to maintain a healthy mental and physical state.

Genuine memories are created through human interaction, rather than posting a picture online or texting someone. We should all learn to unplug from the world a little, connect with our families more and try to change the normality of social interaction in order to be happier and more connected to those we love and need.

2nd Place, Eric Acosta, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland

When I was 6, my favorite book was a joke book. I read from it constantly. I love to make people laugh. That was my intention weeks ago, when I posted what I felt was a joke on social media, but people took it seriously. They were offended and upset. Parents were called. The privilege of social media was taken away from me. You probably want to hear how wonderful my life immediately became, but it did not. Within 24 hours of deleting my social media, I received multiple hate texts and curses from ‘friends’ for not responding to their Snapchats or keeping a streak. I felt detached, unbearably lonely. I never realized how much I depended on constant contact and feedback from others.

Days went by. Fortunately, some relatives from up North happened to visit. Instead of being on my phone, I started actually communicating. As a result, I learned a lot about my family and realized how complex and interesting my family history is. I had conversations I would not normally have, and we laughed and had a good time. If I had my phone, I would be in the other room ignoring them.

That’s when I realized, these people are my family and I love them. I enjoyed talking with them and learned things I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I will certainly do it more often. Friends will come and go, but your family is ALWAYS your family. And my family always laughs at my jokes.

3rd Place, Keith Bates, Age: 15, Grade: 9, School: Lake Highland

I should unplug and connect with my family because I need to spend time with them for as long as I can rather than using my time up on a piece of technology. It may not seem like a big deal, but you never know the last time you will see or talk to your family. That is why everyone should scrape off that glue that is sticking us to our glass screens and realize there are people and a world around them. My strategy is whenever I have a chance, I do activities with my family to grow closer to them. It may be something as simple as eating a meal together or going to Universal. One activity my family and I did to disconnect completely from technology was to go on a white water rafting trip in the Grand Canyon for six days. This gave us the opportunity to appreciate the natural world inside the Grand Canyon and enjoy each other’s company without any outside distractions. In the end my family and I got to enjoy a very nice vacation focused on family time. After that I realized how much I was missing when I stare at my devices rather than interacting with the world around me. Technology is a blessing that we have been given to make our daily lives better, but maybe it is time to take a break to be with loved ones. It will truly help you appreciate your family and surroundings.

Honorable Mention, Annabelle Echevarria, Age: 16, Grade 10, School: Homeschool

Imagine spending an entire week without technology.  Could you do it?  Statistics show that 43% of the U.S. population, ages 13 and older never unplug from their technology.  I know that sometimes I am guilty of being addicted to technology.  I also know that it is best to unplug and connect with my family for 2 reasons: internet can be a negative influence and family is more valuable than technology.

While the internet may seem like a great way to connect with friends and family, it can quickly become a distraction.  Also, many people have evil intentions and even if you don’t have those same intentions, you can become affected by them without even realizing it.  Nowadays it can be difficult to escape the negative influences in the world, but we can certainly do our best to avoid it.

The internet can take you away from spending quality time with your family.  Making memories with your loved ones is not something that can be obtained by looking at a screen.  Some ways you can connect with your family is by participating in fun activities or by exploring new places together.  Bonding within a family can also happen by engaging in conversation with one another.  Musician Jonathan Cain once said, “We get sucked into the Internet and streaming information, and it’s time to just unplug and look within.”

You should unplug and connect with your family because the internet can be a negative influence and family is more valuable than technology.

Honorable Mention, Joshua Fu, Age: 15, Grade: 10, School: Lake Highland

I remember the first time I picked up my phone. I remember looking at it, wondering, “How could anyone get addicted to this?”, and then finding myself unable to put it down half an hour later. It was instant; I used to mock others for being unable to function without a device, but the second I realized the possibilities that I held in my hands, I became dependent. However, I didn’t realize the long term consequences until much later. My grades started slipping, I spent less and less time with my family, and the times I did, we were usually arguing. The first time I had my phone taken away, I was livid. Looking back on it, it was a breath of fresh air in my increasingly screen-dependent life. Now I realize that something needs to be done. I should unplug and connect with my family because I am straining the relationship I have with my parents. I don’t communicate with them, but I need to start again. If I unplug, just for a little bit, I can strengthen the connection I have with my family and improve my daily life. Devices are something that are meant to be used, but the usage must be limited. I need to reboot; to wipe away the mistakes and restart my life with my family.