Istation, a leader in educational technology, today announced the grand prize winner for the Young Voices Make A Difference essay contest: Lucy Bench. Bench, a sixth-grader from New Canaan Public Schools in Connecticut, shared her story of finding comfort in reading during unsettling times. The contest, which will be held annually, invites middle schoolers to share their experiences and how they were inspired during the school year.
The idea for the essay contest came about when 12-year-old This is Us star Lonnie Chavis shared his experience with racism as part of People magazine’s “Voices from the Fight Against Racism” series. Chavis’ moving essay caught the attention of the Istation team and quickly inspired the educational tech provider to develop the Young Voices Make a Difference contest, creating a platform where adolescents could express their own perspectives and feelings on what they were seeing in the world around them.
Istation received essays from middle school students sharing what they learned about themselves, important issues they saw arise throughout the year and their ideas on how to solve these challenges. As the grand prize winner, Bench’s essay will be incorporated into Istation’s HumanEx learning program. In addition, she and her teacher will both receive a brand new Samsung tablet.
Bench wrote about discovering a new love for reading while dealing with coronavirus-related anxiety. During quarantine, Bench challenged herself to take on more difficult books, like To Kill a Mockingbird, and found inspiration in gaining new perspectives.
“We checked out about 30 books. When my brother went to get them and came back home, it was like Christmas,” Bench said. “I learned that reading can educate us on issues that are important and, in some cases, need to change to make the world a better and more fair place.”
Between the global protests, the pandemic and transitioning to remote learning, this year has presented challenges for children across the country. Other students wrote about complex issues like the value of art, food and water inequality, and how their families have dealt with COVID-19. The Young Voices Make a Difference essay contest is designed to focus on gaining insights from students’ perspectives across the country to better understand the learners Istation serves.
Founded in 1998 and based in Dallas, Texas, Istation (Imagination Station) has become one of the nation’s leading providers of richly animated, game-like educational technology. Winner of several national educational technology awards, the Istation program puts more instructional time in the classroom through small-group and collaborative instruction. Istation’s innovative reading, math and Spanish programs immerse students in an engaging and interactive environment and inspire them to learn. Additionally, administrators and educators can use Istation to easily track the progress of their students, schools and classrooms. Istation now serves over 4 million students throughout the United States and in several other countries.