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Announcing the Social Distancing Essay Contest Winners

August 7, 2020

In an effort to support blind children and their education during this trying time of uncertainty, the National Federation of the Blind of Texas sponsored an Essay contest for blind youth.  These essays were intended to be a way for children to explore emotions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and process their feelings.


Blind children from around the country submitted essays about their experiences with the Coronavirus or other difficult situations. Applicants were asked to answer the following question in at least 500 words: How have you dealt with the coronavirus, social distancing or another life challenge?

  A 50 dollar gift card was awarded to the following winners in each grade bracket.

Congratulations to our winners! Below are the four winning essays. All entries are posted on the NFB-NEWSLINE Texas Local Channels.

K-3: Sidney Floyd (Keary)

Before the coronavirus became a problem, I had trips planned, I went to school and saw my friends, and I played sports to stay active and have fun. Then, the coronavirus came and caused problems.

 I had to cancel my trip to Greece, and I can’t go to the beach. (I was going to go to St. Simons for a vision conference.) The virus also interrupted my occupational and physical therapies. My school closed, so I missed everybody at school. While we have been stuck at home, my dogs died; that was really bad. I had a quarantine birthday, but that was not as bad as it sounds. It was kind of fun because friends came to say “Happy Birthday” from the end of the driveway. Most of the bad things that happened to me stunk, but I had to deal with it so I came up with creative ways to make the situation better.

To stay safe, I have stayed home, have worn masks, only used my belongings, stayed in my car instead of going into places (like restaurants), ordered stuff online instead of going into stores, called restaurants for takeout, and I have not touched anything until we wiped everything down with Clorox wipes.

Even though I have been staying home, I have been staying active. I have been doing Zoom track, swim, and soccer practices. And I have been doing piano lessons on Zoom. My favorite practice is my soccer practice. Soccer practice is every day. We have a new guest every day. For one soccer practice, we had players from all the continents on the Zoom call; it was a global practice.

Also to stay active, I have been walking and running around my neighborhood. But don’t worry, I stay at least six feet away from everyone. I have been riding my Ziggle, too. I rode it in my cul-de-sac.

To stay in touch with my best friend during the quarantine, since I can’t leave my house, I have been calling her on FaceTime. I talk to her every day. I love being able to hear her and see her. Before school ended, we had Zoom calls with my classmates to stay in touch. I have also been writing pencil pal letters to my friends so we know how we are doing.

For fun, I have also been knitting. I am in a knitting club at school. I own a loom and have been using it. I loomed a bag for my mommy to carry her cellphone in. So far, I have also made two kumihimo braids on a homemade marudai loom.

I have also been doing yoga with my mommy. And I like to do meditation. I have been practicing typing on my parents’ laptop. I am reading with my daddy, and he reads to me. My favorite book is Harry Potter because it is funny, and I like when they play quidditch. Right now, we are on the fourth book. I also have fun by watching TV and movies. Do you know what my favorite TV show is? I love, love, love The Great British Bake Off! My favorite thing to do is watch it while I snuggle with my mommy and daddy.

I like to organize and clean for fun. During the pandemic, I have been cleaning my dresser drawers. I organized my shirts and pants to give me more space in my drawers and so it would look nice, and so I can see it better. I have also been vacuuming the house and helping with chores.

Even though some things were bad when the coronavirus started, I have tried my best to make it better. I have made sure to stay safe and to stay active. I have also been keeping up with my friends and having fun. These are the ways I have dealt with the coronavirus, and I will keep doing these things in the summer. (For example, I will be going to virtual Braille camp in June!)

4-6: Anna Sayles (covid 10 essay)

The Covid-19 has been a challenge for me so far during this time. I have had different feelings about the Covid-19. The first time I heard about the Illinois lockdown I felt really sad because I thought that we were going to have a curfew. Over time, I accepted that other people are going through the same situation as me.

As time passed, Illinois has been shutting down more and more. For example, I can't go out to dinner with my family anymore because of Covid-19. It made me feel really sad that I couldn’t go out to dinner. I told myself it would be okay and I would be fine without going out.

There are 85,000 people in Illinois who are sick because of Covid-19. Are you wondering how many people in America have the Covid-19? If so, let me tell you. There are 1.43 million people have the Covid-19 in the United States.

There has been many changes. For example, Bartonville Grade School has been canceled because of the Covid-19. My sister and I have to do digital learning. I am working on Typing Club, lxl, and Learning Ally. Even though I am not with other students, I am still enjoying it working remotely. It makes me proud when I finish with my lessons. Over 3,700 people in the Unites States of America that have died because of the Covid-19 19. I felt very surprised when my step-mother told me that many people have died so far.

I have tried to care for people who have the virus. I want to show support by doing Hunting for Hearts. I could also help by donating stuffed animals to children who are sick in the hospital.

If one person in a family has the Covid-19, there would be a change in their life. I have thought about what happens if one family member got the Covid-19. It would make me feel more conscious and wash my hands more often. If my sister would get sick, I would really care for her. I would bring her soup and water too. I am thankful that no one in my family has the virus.

Everyone in America is staying home. I am also listening to how the government closes different businesses down. I am used to staying home so other people do not get Covid-19. I cope by reading a prayer out of a prayer book my grandma gave me. I like to play with Barbies with my sister to have something to do. I also push my sister on the swing to pass the time. My family gets closer every time we do something fun together.

The lockdown has been extended again. At first I was worried that we were on a curfew again. Then on the news broadcast they said that school was cancelled for the rest of the school session this year. The news made me feel half sad because I do not get to see my friend from school. I am also happy because I get to spend more time with my family at home. Even though I have many different feeling about the stay-at-home order, I know I have to do it.

So far I have done well with my digital learning. The reason I am doing well is because of the quietness of my home that helps me concentrate better. I like home learning better than school learning. I have had to work only three days of week with my vision teacher, Ms. Nancy. During my off days, I finish my E-Learning.  I also get more recess time at home.

Before the lockdown, I went to dance and tumbling. I also played at the park. I am unable to go to school, restaurants and to a friend's house. Even though I cannot do those activities, I cope by playing outside.

What we have to wear now has changed. For example, we have to wear masks or else we get fined from the police. Even though I like to hug people, we have to stay 6 feet away. Now, we are unable to go to the store with my step-mom because of the virus. My life has changed the last two months.

I hope this virus is over soon. I have become a stronger person because of the lockdown. I have gotten more exercise at home because I have more time. I am going to try to support people who are sick by baking cookies in the next two months. Everyone in the United States has to sacrifice in some way and I will do my part.

7-8: Zoe Tseng (juggling)

My name is Zoe. I have the genetic condition of Cone-rod Dystrophy. One life challenge I have faced was getting into my elementary school’s juggling show. I overcame it by working really hard and persevering.

I was going to a new school in a new town with a new vision teacher and my first mobility specialist. We were taking a tour of my new elementary school, Millennium.  “Coming up is the commons,” the mobility teacher told me. And that is when I saw them—the jugglers! They were in neat formations as they juggled to music. Some stood still, others moved. Some juggled pins, others rings, and others balls. I looked around in amazement and said that I would like to try. The teacher in charge told me that the students were practicing for the annual juggling show and that she would be happy if I wanted to try out once I went to school there. We toured the rest of the school, but the jugglers were the highlight. I knew that I wanted to be in that juggling show no matter what.

The first year I was at Millennium, I was in third grade. Millennium only goes up to fifth grade, so I had three chances to make the show. In third grade, I went to all the practice sessions during recess. The teacher assigned me helper who was an older girl who knew how to juggle. I learned the first juggling form relatively quickly. It was called the shower. It involved two balls: You start with one ball in each hand.  Toss the ball from your right hand, up in the air. While the ball is in the air, you pass the second ball from your left hand to your right, bringing your left hand back in time to catch the ball from the air. The next juggling form was trickier. It was called the rainbow. You had to toss both balls to the opposite hand at the same time. After I finally mastered that one, the student-helper showed me criss-cross apple sauce. It is similar to the rainbow, except you throw the balls at different times. Once your first ball is at the high point, you throw the second ball. This proved very difficult for me. I got nervous and threw the balls too far, and when I didn’t do that the ball crashed into each other and flew in different directions. I asked my mom to sew me some juggling balls so I could practice at home and she agreed. By the time try outs were over, I still hadn’t figured it out. You needed twenty catches in a row, using three balls, to be in the show. I was discouraged that I hadn’t made the show and wasn’t even close. I told myself I would practice in the summer, but I never seemed to make enough time for it.

In fourth grade, when the next juggling season came around, I was considering giving up on my dream. It just seemed so hard and impossible. But then the teacher talked to our gym class about it. “All you need are the three Ds: Dedication, Determination, and Desire,” she said, walking over to something I assumed was a poster but couldn’t see well enough to be sure.  “I believe that anyone who works hard enough can get in,” she concluded. With these words of encouragement, I was ready to go at it again. I was sure that “anyone who works hard enough” included me, so I would try again. However, not everyone was so sure that I could do it. People told me that it might be too hard for me because I couldn’t see very well. Not everyone voiced their opinion: my dad did not say anything about it at all, and I assumed that he was afraid I would be disappointed. My parents probably hated to see me so excited about something they thought might not happen. Being aware of these doubts only made me more determined. I wanted to show everyone in school and at home that I could do it! One thing that annoys me is when I am treated like a helpless baby, especially by classmates. I had a hard time making friends the past year, and I thought that being a part of the juggling show might give me the chance prove myself in some way. Fortunately, I made two new friends that year who were also trying out for the show. This made me even more determined to get in. I started going to morning practices as well as the recess ones. Everyone there seemed to be much better than I was. I told people about my troubles with criss-cross apple sauce form. This was met with understanding remarks. What I was really looking for was a shortcut, something that would make it easier. I never got one. Eventually I decided I would just try over and over again until I got it right. I tended to kneel on the floor while practicing. For some reason, I did better on my knees. Plus, I didn’t have to stand up and sit down every time I dropped my balls on the floor. I also practiced at home sometimes. The more I practiced, the better I got, and eventually I had it down. It was time for three balls! To do this, you started with two balls in your right hand and one in your left. You throw one of the balls in your right hand up. Once it reaches its highest point, you throw the ball in your left hand up. Then the first ball comes down into your empty left hand just as the ball you just threw out of your left hand is at its highest point and you throw the ball in your right hand and catch the one in the air and so on and so on. Once you get it going, you will have one ball in each hand and one ball at its highest point. I asked my two friends for help. They were both better than me, even though one of them hadn’t made the show yet. They showed me a two ball form that they thought would help me with the three ball form. It looked easy, but it wasn’t. I tried and tried, but I just couldn’t do it. It was even harder than three balls. I figured that I would rather focus on learning the three ball form that I needed to make the show. I continued to look for an easy way to learn, but again, there wasn’t one. I looked longingly toward the table where students stood in front of the teacher and juggled. Those were the kids who were super close to twenty catches and they wanted to make sure the teacher saw it when they finally reached twenty. I saw another kid get the much desired papers, which meant they made it. They walked over to a poster on the wall that had the names of the jugglers who were going to be in the show. I imagined myself receiving those papers and signing my name on the poster too. I simply had to practice. I brought my juggling balls almost everywhere I went. I even brought them on my family’s one week vacation to Taiwan. I showed my friends my progress and even taught some of them how to juggle. They weren’t interested for very long though. When they couldn’t get a form easily, they gave up. I guess not everyone wanted to juggle as badly as I did. At one of the morning practices, I had just set a new personal record of three catches! The teacher in charge happened to glance over and said, “Wow! That was like five catches Zoe!” I didn’t tell her that it was only three. I smiled and wondered why she didn’t compliment the people who were better than I was. Maybe she thought it was harder for me because she didn’t usually give compliments.

On the last day of tryouts, March 16th, I still hadn’t made the show. As all the people trying gathered on the floor in front of the teacher, she said, “Zoe, you’re getting so much better. I’m impressed, and I’m sorry for ever doubting but-I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you all!” I was crestfallen. She had said that ANYONE could make it. ANYONE meant me too. Did she mean everyone else except me? If she had doubted, she didn’t really think I could make it at all. It felt strange and bad to be singled out in that way. Or maybe she just meant she was impressed and didn’t doubt anymore. It felt good to have my progress recognized, but I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or discouraged. I was probably some of both. But apparently, I was more discouraged than proud, because I stopped practicing. I was already weary of the next juggling season. I felt that I was just going to give up. It would be hard watching so many other proud students make the show without me. No one seemed to think I could make it.

When juggling tryouts came during my fifth grade year, however, something made me change my mind. I felt that I simply could NOT give up. I couldn’t give up on my dream. I couldn’t be the kind of person who stops just because no one thinks I can do it. I would be that one person who believes I can do it! I would believe in my own ability to do whatever I wanted! I heard my grandmother’s voice telling me, “You can do whatever you want to do. Okay? I believe that you can do whatever you want to do. Never forget what grandma told you.” I heard her voice, and I believed her. I had to do it! I just had to! It was my last chance! I would show everyone that I could do it. Maybe it would take a little, well a LOT, more work for me to learn, but so what!? The three Ds are dedication, determination, and desire. I was going to show the world that I was dedicated and determined, and I definitely desired to make the juggling show. In fact, I felt all three Ds so fiercely, that I had no doubt in my mind that I would make it. After this rousing decision I practiced all the time. I never timed it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I had practiced five hours a day. I went into my room, turned on an audio book, sat down, and practiced nonstop! I always sat in front of my dark brown door for contrast. My light blue balls stood out against the dark wood. Every time I dropped my balls I picked them right back up. Sometimes I didn’t even count my catches so I wouldn’t get stressed about not having enough. I practiced so much in fact, that I probably saw juggling balls dancing before my eyes as I fell asleep. I still remember the day I got twenty catches. I was listening to a Wings of Fire book when I shouted my number of catches out loud. “TWENTY! Mom, I got twenty catches!!!!” I yelled as I ran into her room and gave her a big hug. I was so excited. I jumped up and down and threw my juggling balls to the ground. I continued to practice to be sure that I could show the teacher when I got to school. It took a bit to figure out how to juggle standing up, but I got it. I remember proudly receiving my papers and signing my name on the poster. It was only a few days before tryouts were over. The teacher asked me if my family was surprised and I told her, “Yes, but my dad was the most shocked. It was great!” It was an extremely proud moment. She told me to continue practicing so I could get even more than twenty catches. Perhaps she hadn’t doubted me quite as much as I had thought. By the time try-outs were over for that year I had helped other people learn how to juggle and encouraged them to practice. When the show came around, I had sixty catches, maybe more. I wasn’t the star of our group’s act or anything, but I was so glad to be a part of it.

I know that making a juggling show doesn’t sound like much of a life challenge, but it was certainly a challenge in my life, as well as a proud moment and a lesson. I learned that some things don’t have an easy way and looking for one can be a waste of time. You have to practice and put in the effort. “Hard work pays off” and “practice makes better” are two common sayings that apply. Another thing I learned is that giving up doesn’t help. If you want something, you have to believe in yourself and keep at it. There’s no point in getting discouraged.  There is one last thing I learned, which has been proven multiple times in my life. If I am super determined, I can do anything.

9-12: Lindsay White (Coronavirus Effect on Me)

As we all struggle with this virus and its effect. Wondering how it has affected me? Well stick around a little bit longer to find out.  

Let’s start with school nowadays. My school is online and using virtual meetings to get the work done. It's hard for me to have the drive and focus with other people in my house. It is also hard sometimes to get the technology to work. When I can’t get it to work, I get mad.

The whole social distancing thing is very hard for all of us, and is no different for me. I’m a people person, so not seeing many people triggers my anxiety. That I can’t touch people makes me feel lonely. That I can’t go out of the house much makes me sad and lonely.

It also breaks my heart to see people getting sick, even dying. It makes me feel really blessed that me and most of my family is well and has not gotten it. It makes my family and I very cautious. For example, we are wearing masks, and gloves when we are out of the house. When we get back home, we leave our shoes outside and change our clothes. We are washing our hands a lot, and have even set up a quarantine system for the mail, and newspaper. When we bring it in the house, we put it in a bag for five days. Like most of us we are on edge and are taking steps to stay safe.  

I have taken the time to give back to my community and front line workers. I’m making cards with a message telling them to stay strong. Each night I pray for the world to get through this virus. I’m also doing the most important thing staying home to save lives. 

While I’m home I’m doing some new things and doing things to stay busy. Like I've started producing and publishing my music online. I've also started cooking new things. I’m playing sports each day and going on daily walks, with my dog. I've also started grooming my dog, because all places are closed. Me and my family are having game nights and being more together. 

What I hope we learn from this pandemic is to come together, and how we can help each other. I hope we start to have more respect for our nurses, doctors, first responders. I hope we learn the power of one paycheck, and not to take anything for granted. I hope we cherish each warm meal. I hope we take better care of our health. I hope as a world we start to see each other as friends and heroes and foes. 

So, this is how the Corona Virus has affected me, and how I want to affect the world when it is all over. So, let’s stay ourselves, and stay strong. We can raise the above virus together. Nothing can break us if we stay together forever.

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