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High schools teach lessons with PSA's



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May 02, 2012 - By Olivia Shumaker

Review Intern

While it may not be a popular message at a Saturday night party, Lake Orion High School students found that an anti-drinking message is one they feel they should support.

Seniors Jonathan D'Ambrosio and Ashley Bartreau, as part of their curriculum for the high school's Television Production Workshop (TPW) class, both entered their own public service announcements into the Courageous Persuaders contest, and are currently among the top 60 finalists in the nation.

"We've been very fortunate in the past few years to have a couple students each year in the top 60," said TPW teacher Roger Smith. "Even getting to the top 60 is phenomenal."

The Courageous Persuaders contest was started several years ago in southeastern Michigan by Judge Michael Martone. Frustrated by the number of teen-related drunk driving incidents he saw before his bench, Martone created the Courageous Persuaders organization, challenging high school students to create anti-drinking public service announcements targeted at a middle school audience.

Since its inception, the contest has grown to become a nationwide contest receiving hundreds of entries each year and giving away dozens of scholarships ranging in sum from $250 to the $3,000 Grand Prize. The contest is still based in Michigan and reserves some scholarships to Michigan entrants only, in addition to holding the award ceremony in Michigan, all to maintain the Michigan connection.

While it was a class related project, both D'Ambrosio and Bartreau approached the contest with their own unique style.

Bartreau, being a rising newscaster herself with TPW, designed her entry, "Numbers," with reporting in mind, referencing a statistic stating that approximately 5,000 teenagers die by problems relating to alcohol.

"I had different students pretend to be news anchors and say different stories about either drunk driving or alcohol related things that just didn't turn out well," Bartreau said. At the close of the entry, she had her cast members each say that they did not want to be just another number.

D'Ambrosio, in keeping with his style as a short film storyteller, designing his entry with "a film look to it," Smith said. Though not being as happy go lucky or humorous as some entries were, D'Ambrosio was trying to show, "that it's not worth it to put yourself in this position," Smith said.

All entries to the contest had to be 60 seconds or less, and could not use any copyrighted music—standard practice for most video contests. In addition, entries could not show anyone wearing shirts with trademarks or logos on them, to avoid copyright issues as well as having the contest associated with a non-sponsor group. Minors could be used but students had to provide consent and release forms, due to the nature of one half of the Grand Prize.

In addition to receiving a $3,000 scholarship, the Grand Prize winner will have their public service announcement shown on national television for one year.

Right now D'Ambrosio and Bartreau, as part of the top 60 finalists, are taking part in a branch competition with its own scholarship prize. The top 60 entries, in addition to being sent to middle schools, could be posted on YouTube, where viewers could choose to vote for the video by clicking "Like." The video with the most Likes when the contest closes is the winner and the student who made it will receive a scholarship.

Ultimately, though, the goal is to reach middle school students, and spread the message that drinking is dangerous.

"I think it was good just to see that people were interested in helping with it and knew that it was a cause that was worthwhile," Bartreau said. "I want to get the message out about anti-drinking and stop teen drinking, because it's a huge problem."

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