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Local students winners in C-SPAN video contest

Students from Sidney Gutierrez Middle School received honors for short documentaries they produced for C-SPAN’s StudentCam2020 contest. Macy Woods, left, and Mary Olvera, front right, won third place for their film “America’s Broken System” on immigration and asylum, and Jonah Pinoñ, back left, Caleb Ross, center, and Cade Borner (not pictured) received an honorable mention for “Fleeing From Terror: The American Asylum System.” (Juno Ogle Photo)

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Two students at Sidney Gutierrez Middle School won third place in a national student documentary competition, and three of their classmates received honorable mention.

More than 5,300 high school and middle school students from 44 states submitted their five- to six-minute films to C-SPAN’s StudentCam2020 contest with the theme “What’s Your Vision in 2020?” according to C-SPAN’s contest website. Students selected topics they wanted to see presidential candidates address.

All of the eighth-grade students in language arts and social studies teacher Leslie Lawner’s class entered the contest, starting work in August and wrapping up in January.

While the high school contest is divided into three geographic divisions, middle school students compete with others from the entire country.

Mary Olvera and Macy Woods took the third-place prize of $750 for their video “America’s Broken System” examining the U.S. immigration and asylum system.

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For their honorable mention, Caleb Ross, Jonah Pinoñ and Cade Borner will get $250 for their video, “Fleeing From Terror: The American Asylum System.”

Both videos can be seen at studentcam.org/winners20.htm.

“I think we’ve gotten honorable mention maybe two or three times in the past, nothing lately,” Lawner said. “This is the first time we’ve ever gotten third place.”

In past years, C-SPAN has sent its mobile studio bus to winning schools for students to tour, but Lawner was not sure if that will happen this year with concerns about coronavirus.

Students chose their own topics for their videos and were responsible for the content. They were required to use video clips from C-SPAN but could use other video sources as well and had to do their own research.

“We had to research multiple topics and choose which one sparked our interest,” Mary said.

Topics from other teams in the class included recreational marijuana, the death penalty, gun laws, mass shootings, drone strikes and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

The students also conducted interviews for their documentaries. Among those Mary and Macy interviewed were State Sen. Cliff Pirtle, R-Roswell, and State Rep. Phelps Anderson, R-Roswell. Through Skype, both of the award-winning teams also interviewed immigration attorneys and advocates in Albuquerque, Minnesota and Washington D.C.

The students also had some help from local filmmaker Dusty Deen, owner of Red Roadrunner Film and Video Productions, Lawner said.

“He came in a number of times during the course. He would come in and critique and give them some ideas about how you make a professional-looking and -sounding video,” Lawner said.

Editing was the hardest part of the project, the students said.

“We had about five to six hours of footage that we had to cut down to make into six minutes,” Macy said.

Jonah said editing was fun, but it also showed him ways to improve interviews. While conducting some of their interviews over Skype, he and his team didn’t notice the subject’s face was not fully in the camera’s frame.

“I would have changed some things, but maybe now if I do an interview like that, next time I’ll take note of how it looks,” he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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