“To begin this story I want to say that my parents did not let me have a phone until I was in high school,” Lauren says while laughing.
Before there was a phone, there was a lively girl with a servant's heart and a passion for helping others.
“My mind immediately goes back to the sixth grade. My faith in the Lord led me to a peer group before school where I would lead devotions and bring speakers in to talk to us. To me, stewarding through giving back is one of the best things life can do.”
Soon after, Lauren entered a pageant at Gulf Shores High School adorning her mother’s prom dress from the ‘80s. Ultimately, Bradford won…as a freshman.
“After the pageant, a lady approached me and told me about Miss Alabama’s Outstanding Teen. I was 15 at the time and had never considered the organization. I mean, I was a tomboy. I liked to skateboard and was even a member of the ROTC, but I felt it was a sign. I loved serving others and knew it was an amazing opportunity. I entered my first at-large pageant at the end of that year and began my journey in the Miss America Organization. This for me was such a pivotal way to not only steward my faith but become part of something much bigger than myself."
Here is where the introductory quote comes into play.
“I saw my peers getting phones in elementary school. Because my parents would not let me have one until I was in high school, I was able to be hyper-aware of the negatives surrounding technology overuse. Their grades were dropping, several mannerisms were changing, and I knew then and there what my heart was centered around. First things first, I love to research. I dove into the topic, learned everything I could, and created UNPLUG: THE DIGITAL DIET PLAN to move alongside me in the organization."
Bradford would go on to win several titles in the Miss America Organization including Miss Alabama's Outstanding Teen, Miss Auburn University, Miss Alabama, and first runner-up to Miss America.
"The harm that technology does to a developing brain is damaging. My main goal is to have a balanced state between technology consumption and life.”
To date, Bradford has done just that.
“During my years in the pageant world namely as and after Miss Alabama, I was able to share my plans for Unplug alongside the Alabama State Department of Education and the United States Department of Education at their summer symposium. I also worked alongside the Baldwin County Board of Education and spoke to educators across the county a few months ago about how we could balance and safely use technology in the classroom.”
Even though Bradford has relocated to Nashville to continue her master’s studies at Vanderbilt, she says the ambition to raise awareness and assist in the creation of education plans centered around UNPLUG is still very much there.
“I am very hopeful for the future and what is to come. I want to continue spreading the UNPLUG curriculum across the United States to help raise awareness of using technology in a healthy way. I want to be that change we see ushering in soon.”
While Bradford is well on her way to achieving all of UNPLUG's goals, she has one that sticks out a little further than the rest.
“My dream is to be on Good Morning America and spread the word about my faith, how it led me to UNPLUG, and how it can be used in everyone’s life.”
Lauren Bradford's passion for technology/education led her to travel over 30,000 miles and educate nearly 10,000 students on the overuse of technology.
"The most important thing we can have in this lifetime, I fully believe, is human connection." - Lauren Bradford on her program, UNPLUG: THE DIGITAL DIET PLAN.