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Posted: Sep 24, 2020 in Discussion
This year has brought upon the largest amount of entries that we have ever seen! We had over 12,000 submissions and all of your essays were absolutely enthralling with fantastic stories to tell. We had a very hard time choosing a winner this year, but we have selected James Andrew Kelley for his fantastic work with Puzzle Piece and his amazing story of helping those with learning disabilities through Minecraft. Without further ado, allow me to present you with his winning essay for all to read and enjoy!
When I was 11 years old, I volunteered in a special needs center called Puzzle Piece and helped to create and manage a specialized Minecraft server for kids to play on. What I witnessed was beautiful. A group of children who all had difficulties, were able to socialize and explore this fascinating new world that we had created for them. Throughout my entire time at Puzzle Piece, I had the unique opportunity to observe the positive effects of Minecraft firsthand. The biggest areas of improvement I noticed were in social skills, cognitive function, and happiness.
A lot of the children in Puzzle Piece come there because of their significant social impairments. On Minecraft, however, children immediately relaxed, as they all started working together to survive, thrive, and build in this entrancing new world. One of my jobs on the server was to be an administrator and to enforce a handful of long-forgotten rules. I clearly remember going invisible or disguising myself as a mob, just so I could watch how everybody got along.
What I saw was stunning. These children who would barely talk to each other before the game were collaborating on the next big thing they would build, making plans for how they would grab the oh-so coveted diamonds, and even creating their own system of bartering! I watched first-hand as Minecraft engaged these children in an extremely personal way, and they worked together to do truly amazing things. Buildings began to soar, friendships were made, and most importantly, everyone was having fun.
I watched kids with Autism laugh and enjoy other people’s company, I watched kids with speech impediments communicate their grand ideas on what to build, and I even noticed myself smiling as I thought about everything I wanted to do to improve the server. Puzzle Piece advertised our Minecraft Server as a form of Therapy, and to this day I agree with them. I intensely enjoyed building in spawn, choosing the right plugins for the server, and just watching everyone get along. I’m honored to have been a part of such a beautiful community, and Minecraft is something that has stuck with me ever since I first played the game in Alpha v1.1.1.
I had some cognitive difficulties growing up, but Minecraft was always something that I turned to whenever I felt alone. There was always a group of friends ready to help me build my next big Redstone contraption, or just to hang out and chat for a little while under the bright yellow sun. On top of that, talking in Minecraft was just easier for me than in real life. I met many friends on the platform, and I had a safe place to practice skills that would prove to be invaluable for me later on. Nine years later, I still greatly enjoy Minecraft, and I’ve been playing it almost every day since. After explaining my unique perspective on the game, I’m ready to hop on that realms server, relax with some friends, and finally fix that Iron Golem Farm!
If you missed out on the Fifth Annual Minecraft Scholarship, then worry not! We have begun taking entries for the Sixth Annual Minecraft Scholarship, so be sure to come up with your wonderful stories and tales to tell us how Minecraft has inspired your education or how you’ve used Minecraft as a learning tool to help others in your community. You can head on over to our scholarship page here to submit your entry. We can’t wait to read them, and we hope that the rest of the year inspires you all!