Northland middle-schooler wins New York Times photo contest meant to break teen stereotypes

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We all know a teenager who's seemingly attached to their cell phone.

A student at one Northland middle school is out to break that stereotype. In doing so, she won a prestigious photo contest, which was sponsored by The New York Times.

On Dec. 5, Lakeview Middle School eighth grader Ysabella Olsen learned she was among the 15 winners of The New York Times' "Show Us Your Generation" photo contest.

Olsen's black-and-white photo, which was selected from thousands of entries, shows her family sitting down to a meal without electronic gadgets. An adjoining paragraph explains the context of the photo.

The 14-year-old explained why it's meant to break down the stereotype that teenagers can't function without their phones. She and her fellow eighth graders have studied how communication works with different forms of media.

"I know a lot of families probably use technology during dinner," Olsen said. "It’s just taking that moment in the day to reflect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a prayer or just a statement. I think even a conversation is really important."

"It kind of shows how families have different kinds of traditions," said Isabella Murrito, Olsen's classmate. "A lot of people think we're all about technology, but we play sports, and we hang out with friends, do other things that don't require technologies."

Olsen's reading teacher, Marci Wright, said the submitted photo proves teenagers still value family time without tech. Wright said she loves The New York Times' contest because it allows young people to be creative and make their voices heard.

"It's all about working toward having that right balance," Olsen said.

Olsen said The New York Times didn't offer a formal prize to its winners. The newspaper published the winners on its website, and Olsen said there's still a chance they could use it in a printed edition.

She said the real reward is proving the worth of today's teens.

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