Essay 1Ten fourth graders from the Donna Independent School District were recognized during a special ceremony recently by Watermill Express and H-E-B.

The children competed in the annual Health Habits Writing Contest and received a laptop and a printer as prizes for their outstanding essay submissions. Their teachers and parents were also rewarded with $100 H-E-B gift cards.

The student winners are:

· Clyde de los Santos, Isabella Pedraza, JoAnna Juanita Martinez, Leah G. Diaz and Mia Avila from Stainke Elementary

· Camila Garza, Juan Alvarez and Norma J. Espericueta from A.M. Ochoa Elementary

· Lauren de la Garza from J.S. Adame Elementary

· Naissa Ramirez from B.G. Guzman Elementary

This year, Watermill Express invited Donna ISD and Weslaco ISD to participate in the contest. More than 1,000 essays were submitted between both school districts. The children were challenged to create a superhero who would protect their minds, bodies and the environment through education, exercise, healthy eating and a clean environment. The essays were submitted and read by a panel of judges including Lani Dolifka, Co-Founder and President/CEO of Watermill Express.

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Adame Elementary winner Lauren de la Garza (4th grader) with Principal Maria Partida and teacher Denise Arredondo

“The judges looked at creativity, solid ideas, and good grammar, writing and thoughtful logical order of information,” Dolifka said. “It was very difficult to judge them because we wanted the best. I read about 500 of them myself and the ideas were incredible. The students incorporated their personal lives and how they felt their superhero could improve their communities and their own family’s lives.”

Dolifka said her company started the writing contest 12 years ago to promote student creativity and success.

“We wanted to celebrate the successes of students because there’s a lot of positive activity that happens in our communities and part of it starts at a young age. Helping these students find their voices and helping them understand that adults care about them is why we started this contest.”

Dolifka said she is proud of how the contest is impacting students’ lives. “I met a young college student last year who won our first contest 12 years ago. She said that it made an impact on her life so it’s been great to see this come full circle.”

Fourth grader Lauren de la Garza from Adame Elementary said the contest has impacted her as well. “I wanted to be my own superhero so I picked Lauren H20,” de la Garza said. “I like the word H20 because it’s a scientific word for water and Watermill Express is mostly about water so that’s why I chose Lauren H20. My superhero is about staying safe and healthy. She would carry around useable bags full of fruits and vegetables.”

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Stainke Elementary winner Clyde de los Santos (4th grader) with Principal Griselda Alvarez and teacher Mara de la Cruz

Fourth grader Clyde De Los Santos from Stainke Elementary wrote about a superhero named Zmar. “What he does is he protects the environment, stops people from littering and teaches people and kids to use the 3 Rs which are reduce, reuse and recycle,” De Los Santos said. “He has a bright yellow school bus and always wears bright clothing.”

Both students said entering the contest has been an amazing experience. “I hadn’t written a superhero essay before or a 500-word essay so it was very challenging,” de la Garza said. “But it was a great experience. I learned that we should go outside more, stay healthy and exercise.”

“It made me feel very accomplished because there were over 1,000 people who entered the contest,” De Los Santos said. “For me to be a winner was unbelievable.”