Meet the #MIKidsCan Contest Finalists

| 7 min read

Six Michigan students and one elementary school have been selected as finalists for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s #MIKidsCan Contest. Winners will be decided by the public through an online vote. View the finalists’ entries and vote here. You can vote for your favorites in each category once a day through Nov. 14 at 11:59 p.m. EDT.
Winners will be announced Nov. 18.
In partnership with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, Blue Cross recently asked Michigan kids ages 7 – 14 to a create a two-minute video or submit a photo and short essay answering the question, “What’s your favorite way to get moving and be active?”
Three finalists were chosen in each category: video and photo/essay submission. The winner of the video category will receive a special assembly with Stafford focused on healthy eating and exercise. The winner of the photo/essay category will receive tickets to the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game and autographed Detroit Lions gear.
The video finalists are:
  • Makayla Pawlowski, a seventh grader from Larson Middle School in Troy
  • Brooklyn and Jackson Sage, second graders from Christ the King School in Southgate
  • Cass City Elementary School in Cass City
The photo/essay finalists are:
  • Zharia Akeem, a seventh grader from Bates Academy in Detroit
  • Zach Edmonds, a ninth grader at Big Rapids High School in Big Rapids
  • Austin West, an eighth grader from Oxford Middle School in Oxford
Meet the video finalists.
Watch the videos and vote for your favorite.
Cass City Elementary School
Trent Patrick is a student at Cass City Elementary School and has volunteered to share his healthy tips with us to represent the school.
Age: 7
Grade: 2nd
School: Cass City Elementary School
Hometown: Cass City, Mich.
About Trent:
  • Trent was identified by one of his teachers as a great ambassador to represent Cass City Elementary School.
  • His favorite sport is basketball but he also enjoys basketball, football, baseball, kickball, golf and dance (hip hop and acro). He’s also attended golf and basketball camp.
  • Why vote for Cass City Elementary school? Trent thinks his school has great school spirit and the students are active throughout the school day. Cass Elementary has a salad bar and snack bar which encourages healthy eating habits. Students also attend gym and music/movement classes.
  • Trent likes to eat fruits and veggies; blueberries, apples, raspberries, carrots and celery. He always eats a healthy lunch packed with fruits and veggies every day.
  • Fun fact: Trent is always doing head stands in the house, a great way to stay active!
Makayla Pawlowski
Age: 11
Grade: 6th
School: Larson Middle School
Hometown: Troy, Mich.
About Makayla:
  • Makayla credits two of her teachers as being instrumental in her being named a finalist in the video contest. Her language arts teacher introduced her to the contest and much of her content came from lessons she learned from her gym teacher.
  • Makayla’s favorite way to be active is cheerleading – she’s been cheering for six years and is currently involved in the Detroit Cowboys Association as a cheerleader. She also enjoys tumbling, basketball, softball and water sports.
  • Makayla eats healthy and encourages her friends to eat healthy too. She encourages them to try healthy foods when they come to her house. She has a friend who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, so Makayla works hard to understand how to best support her friend when it comes to healthy eating habits and physical activity.
  • Why vote for Makayla? Makayla points out that her video not only shows all the great ways to be active, but also covers some of the other important parts of living healthy, such as eating healthy foods, drinking enough water and getting the proper amount of sleep.
  • Fun fact: If Makayla wins and meets Matthew Stafford, she plans to ask him who his favorite teammate on the Lions is and how it feels to be in the stadium playing in front of so many people.
Brooklyn and Jackson Sage
Sage Kids
Age: 7
Grade: 2nd
School: Christ the King Lutheran
Hometown: Southgate, Mich.
About Brooklyn and Jackson:
  • Brooklyn and Jackson are twins and the oldest of four Sage kids. They share many of the same hobbies and interests, including flag football and building obstacle courses in their basement.
  • Between the two of them, they stay busy getting physical activity through football, softball, cheerleading, dance, basketball, gymnastics, wrestling and baseball. Their parents often serve as coaches of their teams.
  • Brooklyn and Jackson help their friends live healthier by challenging other kids to jump rope contests and obstacle course races. There is also no soda in the Sage house.
  • If they win the contest and meet Matthew Stafford, they plan to ask him to go to the Super Bowl.
  • Fun fact: Last year, at the age of six, Jackson became a state wrestling champion.
Meet the photo/essay finalists.
View the photos, read the essays and vote for your favorite.
Zharia Akeem
Age: 12
Grade: 7th
School: Bates Academy
Hometown: Detroit, Mich.
About Zharia:
  • Zharia submitted her photo and essay in the contest because she wanted to share that just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you can’t play sports like football and basketball.
  • Her favorite sport is basketball and she also ways enjoys volleyball, kick ball and playing other sports during camp.
  • Zharia is a very, busy student athlete. In addition to sports she’s also involved in SCA, National Beta Scholars team, gift school ambassadors and takes an SAT prep course.
  • She has learned a lot about being healthy from her mom and her basketball coach, such as the importance of staying hydrated and eating healthy snacks.
  • Interesting fact about Zharia: She wants people to know that just because she’s female and short doesn’t mean she’s less capable than others. In fact, she’s an athlete and a straight A student.
Zach Edmunds
Age: 14
Grade: 9th
School: Big Rapids High School
Hometown: Big Rapids, Mich.
About Zach:
  • Zach loves sports now but it hasn’t always been that way. Until two years ago, he preferred playing video games to getting exercise, which resulted in him being overweight, unhealthy and depressed.
  • He entered the #MIKidsCan Contest because he wants to encourage kids to be more active and get them to be healthier. He was heavier when he was younger and doesn’t want other kids to be like that
  • Zach didn’t become healthy overnight. Two years ago he started making changes. He wanted to be in better condition. He didn’t want to be heavy anymore, wanted to have more friends and be more involved in sports. He made gradual steps that made a big difference. His parents started helping him eat more fruits and vegetables and encouraged him to step away from the screen and get moving. The more active he became, the more he enjoyed sports. The healthier food he ate, the better he felt.
  • He now loves football, wrestling and track. Even better, he’s healthy, has more energy and is happier.
  • Zach wants other kids to get out there and get involved – sports is a great way. Just start somewhere – eat healthier, get active. Making small changes can make a huge difference. Getting healthier and losing weight has changed his life in very positive ways. He enjoys playing sports with his friends, has better self-esteem and is more confident, even when it comes to girls.
Austin West
Austin West and Brother
Age: 13
Grade: 8th
School: Oxford Middle School
Hometown: Oxford, Mich.
About Austin:
  • Austin stays active participating in his two favorite sports, football and wrestling.
  • He decided to enter the contest because he wanted to show other kids how living healthy is better than pushing buttons on your Xbox controller.
  • Austin believes it’s important to be a leader and set a good example, not just to his little brother, but to other kids in general. He knows it’s cool to be active, healthy and a leader in the community. The #MIKidsCan Contest presented him with a perfect platform to teach kids it’s better to be healthy than unhealthy.
  • Austin volunteers to help other students in his school as part of a student leadership program.
  • Fun fact: Austin was recently honored with a special role on a class trip to Washington, D.C., as a result of a writing project.
Vote online through Nov.14 to select the winners of the #MIKidsCan contest.
This blog post is part of #MIKidsCan, an initiative created by Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan to promote positive change in the health and well-being of Michigan youth. To learn more about the campaign, visit
Photo credit: A Healthier Michigan

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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