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C-SPAN Visits ACHS to Award Winners of StudentCam Documentary Competition

two girls hold up certificates
Mia Mervis (left) and Lucy Savarie (right) won an honorable mention for the Student Cam submission 2022. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

ALEXANDRIA, VA–On Wednesday, May 4, Alexandria City High School film students debuted their entry for the C-Span StudentCam documentary video competition to friends and family. C-SPAN executives and Comcast representatives—who sponsored the video—were there to present them with awards, certificates, and congratulations.

Since 2004, the C-SPAN StudentCam documentary competition has begged the question, “How does the federal government impact your life?” Through this program, students are encouraged to explore a federal policy or program and evaluate its effectiveness from multiple perspectives.

“The purpose of this competition is multi-fold,” explains Craig McAndrew, Director of Educational Relations at C-SPAN. “To support teachers and independent students. It is really about supporting that sector and giving them real life skills once the students get off to college and the real world.”

C-SPAN and Comcast representatives joined friends and family and classmates and teachers of the winners to watch their films in person. McAndrew then delivered remarks and presented certificates to the 2021 and 2022 winners.

man hands girl certificate and shakes her hand
Craig McAndrew presents the winners with their certificates. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold

“It doesn’t matter what setting is,” states McAndrew. “Every single one of these is a feel good moment for us because getting to recognize students for their hard work—and it is a lot of hard work—with certificates, cash, and doing so in public is a big deal and one of the best times of the year for us.”

Out of the thousands who submit videos, only 150 are awarded. Then-Sophomores Helen Russell, Alison Avelar, Elena Gutierrez won an honorable mention in 2021 with their documentary Dear Mr. President: History or Progress, a critical look at the initial phases of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Sophomores Mia Mervis and Lucy Savarie won an honorable mention in 2022 for their documentary One Stamp At A Time, which explores the evolution and impact of food stamps in the school and local community.

picture of a food stamp
Still from One Stamp at a Time. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

On receiving this award, Mervis states, “It is crazy because I didn’t think it was going to be this extravagant. We did this as a fun project, and so it is really incredible to see everyone come out.”

Savarie adds, “It just feels really awesome because we did put a lot of hard work into it and it paid off in a great way. It has been really fun to experience all of this.”

a line of people stand in a dark room
The 2021 and 2022 winners are presented awards by CSPAN. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Presented with a list of prompts after their return from Winter break, Mervis and Savire settled on Food Stamps. “The more we researched [food stamps] the more we realized how much they affect our school and our community,” explains Savarie.

So they did their research, they contacted their local officials, they interviewed and filmed and edited, and it culminated in their earning this honor. Mervis and Savarie both enjoyed everything they accomplished in TV and Multi-Media Production this year, and they are considering pursuing it further in the future.

“I’m thinking of minoring in it in college,” says Savarie. “I want to learn more about it, so that is definitely a possibility for me. It is cool and interesting.”

Mervis adds, “I want to get more into it. There is so much technological stuff I have learned that I can now use in the future.”

high school girls pose with adults holding up winners certificates
2021 and 2022 winners pose with CSPAN executives. (Photo Grace Billups Arnold)

Some of these film students have gone on to careers in film, journalism, politics. Some even make full circle moments, working for C-SPAN. Benjamin Lyon, one of the teachers of the TV Multi-Media Production class, has been watching students compete in Student Cam for seven years now.

“I think it is great to see them win an award,” proclaims Lyon. “I really do think even if they hadn’t won, there is a great feeling that comes from knowing they could do this as a job, that just completing it is an accomplishment, but then receiving this award is fantastic. Because we, the teachers, can tell them they are amazing and they won’t listen, but then someone else comes in and says they are at the top, that is so validating.”

All the films going back to 2008 are archived on the C-SPAN Student Cam website. You can find the ACHS 2021 video here and the ACHS 2022 video here.

Related: ACPS Announces 2022 First Places Science Fair Winner, Six-Way Tie for Second

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