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Cspan competition

UHS Students Achieve First Prize In National C-SPAN 2019 StudentCam Competition

C-SPAN announced today that Jacob Sammon, Matthew Moran and Riley Vander Hart, students at Urbandale High School, are first prize winners in C-SPAN’s national 2019 StudentCam competition. They will receive $3,000 for the documentary, “Fighting for a Better Tomorrow,” about the First Amendment. The documentary will air on C-SPAN at 6:50 a.m. ET and throughout the day on April 19.

“I am so thankful for our AP Government teacher, Mrs. La Pietra, who introduced us to this project and made it all possible,” said UHS student Matt Moran. “Our lives were changed in a matter of weeks as we traveled around Iowa interviewing US Senators, state representatives, and everyday citizens. We are so grateful that C-SPAN encourages students like us and thousands more around the country to get engaged with government and inspire others to do the same. Our message encourages people to stand up for what they believe in and share their voice. The freedom to do that is what makes being an American so special.”

Each year since 2006, C-SPAN partners with its local cable television providers in communities nationwide to invite middle and high school students to produce short documentaries about a subject of national importance. This year students addressed the theme, “What does it mean to be American? Choose a constitutional right, national characteristic, or historic event and explain how it defines the American experience.”

“I feel incredibly grateful to Mrs. La Pietra for giving myself and many other students this opportunity. It has not only taught me more about government, but it has given me countless life lessons and an unearthed passion for making change that I will take with me for the rest of my life,” said UHS student Jacob Sammon.

In response, a record 6,318 students (a 10 percent increase over 2018) from 48 states and Washington, D.C., participated. The most popular topics among the 2,923 submissions included First Amendment rights (17 percent), equality/discrimination (13 percent) and immigration (9 percent).

“I had an awesome time working with my friends, learning more about government, and connecting with government figures across the nation,” said UHS student Riley Vander Hart. “A special thanks to our government teacher, Mrs. La Pietra, for promoting this project and supporting us through the process!”

“Over the last 15 years, we’ve had the privilege of hearing viewpoints on a wide variety of issues directly from young filmmakers across the country,” said C-SPAN’s Manager of Education Relations Craig McAndrew. “This year, students clearly stepped up their approach to deliver thoughtful and diverse responses to our competition theme, which reflect enormous time and effort put into the research and construction of their documentaries.”

C-SPAN is funded by America’s cable television companies, whom also support StudentCam. In Urbandale, C-SPAN is available locally through Mediacom.

“Mediacom is proud to partner with C-SPAN on its annual documentary competition, StudentCam,” said Steve Purcell, Group Vice President for Area Operations. “These Des Moines area students were challenged to think about our democracy and to creatively portray different views on what it means to be American. We are delighted to see young leaders from Urbandale High School define the American experience through their short video, and we congratulate them on their winning entry.”

These winners are among the 340 students across the country winning a total of $100,000, including one grand prize winner, four first prize winners, 16 second prize winners, 32 third prize winners and 97 honorable mentions. This year C-SPAN marks its 15th year of the competition and awards its 1 millionth dollar in StudentCam prize money.

The 150 winning videos can be viewed at The annual competition is sponsored by the C-SPAN Education Foundation. Videos were evaluated by a panel of educators and C-SPAN representatives based on the thoughtful examination of the competition’s theme, quality of expression, inclusion of varying sides of the documentary’s topic, and effective incorporation of C-SPAN programming.

“As a teacher, I love being able to bring learning to life for my students,” said UHS Government teacher Mrs. La Pietra. “I’m thankful for resources like C-SPAN that help encourage students to learn more about government and get involved in their community. Our students’ winning video put in lots of time and effort to answer the documentary prompt ‘what does it means to be American.’ It is wonderful to see them rewarded for all their hard work and especially great to see all the local government officials who helped make this documentary happen!”

Urbandale Community School District congratulates Matt, Jacob, and Riley for their dedication to creating a compelling, meaningful, and thought-provoking video. Incredibly well-done! We are #proudofU

(Credit: Portions of the C-SPAN press release are included above.)