August 28, 2013 - Mark Hurrish was simply hoping for a good grade on a class assignment.
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He never expected to win a national contest and a $3,000 scholarship for his work.
The 2010 Oxford High School graduate took first place in the radio category of the 2013 Freedom of Speech Public Service Announcement (PSA) Contest.
Hurrish, a senior at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, created a 30-second spot addressing the topic "What does freedom of speech mean to you?" His PSA can be heard on-line at www.freedomofspeechpsa.org
Hurrish's PSA focused on how freedom of speech has changed the course of history.
Civil rights crusaders Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were cited as examples for the integral roles their voices played in abolishing slavery, giving women the right to vote and ending racial segregation.
"I was trying to do something a little different," said Hurrish, who's the son of Tom and Ann Hurrish.
He explained that many of the PSA examples he listened to focused on how free speech means being able to "say whatever you want."
"I didn't think that was a powerful enough message," Hurrish said. So, he decided to focus on historical figures who used their freedom of speech "to do bigger things."
"You can change history, but you'll never know (it) until you actually get out there (and express ideas)," he said. "Freedom of speech allows us to do that."
Hurrish, who's majoring in broadcast and cinematic arts and minoring in media design, production and technology, created the PSA as an assignment for his advanced audio production class. Once it was complete, he decided to enter the spot in the contest, but didn't give it another thought until he was notified in early July that he'd won.
"Honestly, I actually kind of forgot about it," Hurrish said. "I did it for a grade. I didn't think I was going to win."
Hurrish now feels better about himself with regard to his talents and abilities.
"A lot of people at school are building their portfolios and I felt like I wasn't on the same level," he explained. "Winning this award really boosted my confidence."
Hurrish hasn't decided what career path he'll pursue with his degree, but he said it will definitely be something that allows him to exercise his creativity, which he finds "really rewarding."
He wished to thank his CMU professors and advisers "for all their support."
"And everyone that helped with the project."
Hurrish credited classes taught by OHS teachers Maria Wolbert and Bruce Holladay with sparking his interest in this type of work.
Holladay teaches video media, while Wolbert teaches web design classes.
The 2013 Freedom of Speech PSA contest was presented by the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation and the Broadcast Education Association.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.