27 July, 2016
Billy Shreve was surprised by the talent and imagination of the student films he watched at a Maryland Film Festival last year.
The festival inspired him to start a competitive film project for children of all ages.
Shreve named the film competition Classmates4Life.
The contest called for elementary, middle, and high school aged students to create a film against drug use.
The Classmates4Life competition was held in Frederick County, Maryland.
Ninety-five students submitted films this year for Classmates4Life. Shreve explained that he kept the topic of the contest simple this year.
"‘How have drugs wrecked your world' for middle school and high school students. And ‘why are drugs bad' for elementary school students."
Although it was a small contest, over 50,000 people have already viewed the students' videos on the Classmates4Life YouTube channel. Shreve said parents use the videos as a teaching tool for their children.
"The parents love it because they can sit down at home, watch a few videos with their kids, [and] talk about what the video content was."
The high school winner of the Classmates4Life competition was Alex Ismael. Alex is a 10th grader at Linganore High School. He made a film called "Lights Out." In the film, he used lightbulbs as a metaphor.
"Our friends and family around us each represent a different light and we need to keep those lights on, and, just the brighter the better. Doing drugs really is going to stop you from being there for those people."
The principal of Linganore High School, Dave Kehne, says the school workers were excited that one of the students from their school won first prize.
"We were also very excited to hear about the program in general because we know that students can use their peer pressure for positive things."
Kehne added that any effort to include kids in a discussion about drugs are greatly needed.
Alexandra Kish's video was the top winner at the middle school level. Her film had a simple message:
"I wanted to make it straightforward: don't do drugs."
Alexandra's personal experience motivated her to make the film.
"I know someone who was very severely affected by drugs. And if someone does drugs, that affects other people. This person kind of affected me, although I don't see this person much. But my position could be anyone else's position and I just don't want that to happen."
The first place winner in the elementary school level was 4th grader Liam Timpane from Centerville Elementary School. He made his film, called "Drugs Can Make Your Life Explode," because he wanted to make his father, who is a filmmaker, proud of him.
Liam also wanted to have a positive effect on his peers.
"In our health lessons, we're talking about how bad drugs are for you. And, actually, one of the kids in my class mentioned, for that part of the health lesson, he said, 'It's kind of like what Liam's video is talking about.'"
Because the Classmates4Life contest was successful, it will be a statewide program next year. That means more students will have an opportunity to creatively fight drug abuse.
I'm Mehrnoush Karimian-Ainsworth.
Faiza Elmasry reported this story for VOA News. Mehrnoush Karimian-Ainsworth adapted it for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor
Words in This Story
inspire – v. to make (someone) want to do something : to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create
contest – n. an event in which people try to win by doing something better than others
submit – v. to give (a document, video, proposal, piece of writing, etc.) to someone so that it can be considered or approved
metaphor – n. an object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else
peer pressure – n. when a person feels pressure to do something so that a group likes them or accepts them
motivate – n. to give (someone) a reason for doing something : to be a reason for (something)
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