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More than a Grade

Liberty students win honorable mention, prize money in documentary competition

photo+provided+by%3A+Wikimedia+Commons
photo provided by: Wikimedia Commons

photo provided by: Wikimedia Commons

photo provided by: Wikimedia Commons

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Pictured from left to right, Zainub Ahmed, Dominic Reyes and Cole Chastain.

Every year, the television network C-SPAN holds a competition for students to make a documentary about current events and submit it for judging with the possibility of winning many different cash prizes.

This year, Liberty made its debut among the exclusive list of winners.

Juniors Dominic Reyes, Zainub Ahmed and sophomore Cole Chastain submitted their documentary “Gun Violence the Second Amendment” to the competition, hoping for no more than to satisfy the rubric for their first semester U.S. Government class final, which was to make a documentary and submit it to the competition. They ended up winning an honorable mention in the competition, and $250 cash prize.

“We weren’t super worried about winning the competition, because the project served as our first semester final. All we could hope for was a good grade,” Reyes said.

Even their teacher, Mrs. Holmes, was stunned to hear the news.

“In the morning, we got an email, and kind of thought at first it might be a joke. But we went into government class and showed Mrs. Holmes, and she was super excited,” Ahmed said.

The trio made sure to pick a topic for their documentary that would satisfy this year’s theme for the competition, which was “The Constitution and you.” They decided on the second amendment, and in particular the topic of gun ownership.

“We thought it would be interesting to research and we knew that gun ownership is a hot topic,” said Reyes.

One requirement of the competition was that the documentary had to address both sides of the issue. Chastain, Reyes and Ahmed were able to use some existing connections to find people to interview on both sides. Chastain’s Grandpa knows the owner of Ultimate Defense, a gun range that he frequents, and was able to get the filmmakers someone to interview: Paul Bastean, a police officer and the head firearms instructor at the range.

For their anti-gun opinion, they were able to interview Shani Buggs, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University and expert on gun laws.

“I emailed some professionals, Ms. Buggs was one of the only ones that emailed back and she was very helpful and willing to be apart of the video,” Ahmed said.

In addition to their video interviews, the trio made sure to include a lot of real news clips and infographics.

Because of the competition submission deadline being much after their due date for the government final, they decided to make some tweaks to the documentary in order to give themselves the best possible chance.

“We spent an extra month after we turned the video to Ms. Holmes, just to give us a little better shot at winning than the other groups who might’ve submitted theirs right away despite the competition deadline being later than the due date of the final,” Chastain said.

It could’ve been their great interviewing skills, or just another example of a little effort going a long way when editing, but either way the team earned the win.

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