Gabe Lawrence was at home when he received a phone call that he and classmate Zachary Trone had just won first place in a statewide video contest emphasizing the fight against teenage drug abuse.
“That was the last thing I was ever expecting to get a call for,” Lawrence said. “I guess I just didn’t have enough confidence that we were going to win.”
The two freshmen won the Instagram category of the Nevada Prescription Drug Abuse Contest. About 200 entries were submitted through various social media platforms, with Lawrence and Trone receiving a $1,000 first-place prize and a luncheon with Gov. Brian Sandoval in Carson City next month.
The winning videos by students from Carson City, Clark, Churchill, Douglas, Mineral, Nye, Pershing and Washoe counties were selected by an independent panel of judges. All prizes were donated by Nevada Public and Behavioral Health Division, the Nevada Statewide Coalition Partnership and the state Pharmacy Board.
The contest was open to sixth- through-12-grade students statewide. They were limited to 30 seconds on YouTube, 15 seconds on Instagram, or 6.5 seconds on Vine.
The videos were judged on sound, aesthetics, originality and overall messaging. The statewide judging panel included Sandoval; state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto; Dale Erquiaga, superintendent of public instruction, Nevada Education Department; Stacy Woodbury, state Medical Association executive director; and Marie Mortera, anchor, KSNV TV, Channel 3.
Trone and Lawrence spent three days filming their 15-second public service announcement and two weeks editing.
“I was a little surprised actually. I didn’t think we’d win first place. It’s the first thing I’ve ever won,” Trone said. “It’s amazing. I can’t really explain it.”
The public service announcement opened with the words “Is it worth losing a friend’s life?” before showing Trone standing at a friend’s grave as he holds a bottle of pills. The camera focuses on the pill bottle, then “or is it worth losing your own” appears on the screen as it transitions to Lawrence laying face down on the floor with a bottle of pills next to his hand.
The video’s powerful message was the whole point of the project as the two emphasized the dangers of prescription drug abuse, they said.
“I think the portraying death part will get in the kids’ minds and let them know how much it can affect you,” Lawrence said. “That was the overall goal.”
Three other groups from Boulder City High School’s video production class placed in other categories of the contest. Video production teacher Joshua Fisher said even with the minimal supplies the kids had to work with, their successes show just how creative they are by placing four times out of nine categories.
“I think it speaks a testament to our administration and the team they put together,” Fisher said. “We have smaller class sizes so we get more one-on-one action.”
As for meeting the governor, Trone and Lawrence still aren’t sure what they’ll say.
“I have no idea what I’m going to say to him,” Trone said with a laugh.
“That’s what I’ve been dreading,” Lawrence echoed with a laugh. “I’m not much of a talker.”
Contact reporter Steven Slivka at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-586-9401. Follow @StevenSlivka on Twitter.