Four Coffee County Central High School students put three years of audio/visual lessons to work and their efforts earned the grand prize and People’s Choice Award in a national video competition hosted by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
CHS seniors and third year audio/visual students Dalton Sherrill, Jackson Hamm, Brian Wang and Yanely Luna brought “What Could’ve Been” to life – their video for Operation Prevention featured a teenager, played by Sherrill, going through his life as a successful father and businessman. But that wasn’t the life Sherrill’s character actually lived – it was what could have been if he hadn’t died from an opioid overdose.
“I’m really proud of them,” said their audio/visual teacher Scott “Deuce” Anderson. “I had a feeling from the beginning, based on what I saw and what I saw in the top 10 finalists, I thought we had a chance.” Although he wasn’t sure on what the judging criteria was, he believed his students had a shot of winning.
The four seniors had no idea they won until Senior Awards Day at the high school on Thursday, May 9. Wang wanted to skip the ceremony all together and sit in the bleachers because he wasn’t expecting to be honored, but he explained math teacher Jenny Skipper forced him to sit with his peers. That, and paired with he heard the video’s music playing when they were testing the equipment should have been enough of a hint for him, but he wasn’t sure at the time.
Hamm’s clue came in the form of family members, who surprised him by showing up.
Sherrill admitted it was in the back of his mind and he found out about five minutes before the award ceremony began.
Luna said, “I wasn’t thinking about it at all. I already forgot about it.”
After every senior received their awards, two members of the DEA and two members of Discovery Education were introduced. Then, “What Could’ve Been” played. The four were invited to the stage and handed a check for $10,000 for winning the first place prize and were told they also nabbed People’s Choice for receiving the most votes.
“It was amazing,” Hamm said.
They are all putting the money, split four ways, into college and savings. Winning People’s Choice means they will be going on a trip to the DEA Training Academy in Quantico, VA.
After this, they learned Anderson, faculty and some of their family members have been keeping the fact they won a secret from them for up to two weeks.
Anderson said you can put a price on the $10K grand prize, but the trip will be a priceless experience.
“I really hope that they use this as a spring board to whatever their next step is going to be,” Anderson said.
The seniors explained they will be saving the money and putting it toward college.
Sherrill, Hamm and Luna plan on going into audio/visual related careers after college and will be using this in their portfolios as well as on their résumés. Wang is unsure and is leaning toward computer programming or business.
The four thanked their classmates and everyone who voted for their project, especially those who dedicated their time to vote daily and promote the contest. They thanked Anderson for his guidance and teaching them for the past three years, as well as the DEA and Discovery Education representatives for coming to Coffee County.
Their video, “What Could’ve Been,” can be viewed at www.operationprevention.com/competition/video/archives/2019.