MLEC students win in video documentary contest

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 0 Comments

MLEC students win in video documentary contest
For the fourth year in a row, Miami Lakes Educational Center’s (MLEC) journalism students have won honors in C-SPAN’s annual StudentCam competition, an annual national video documentary competition that encourages students to think critically about issues that affect their communities and the nation.
“C-SPAN started this competition 15 years ago for smart students who have opinions and ideas but often feel that they don’t have a voice,” said Joel Bacon, who traveled to MLEC on April 3 to present the award to the school’s winning team.
Daniel Gonzalez III, Michelle Mairena and Khimmoy Hudson, sophomores enrolled in the Cambridge Journalism Program at MLEC, won honorable mention and will receive $250 for their documentary, “Listen: America is Speaking”
Each year since 2006, C-SPAN partners with its local cable television providers like Comcast 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.”
In response, a record 6,318 students from 48 states and Washington, D.C., participated. MLEC was one of only two high schools in Miami-Dade County to be recognized.
In their film, the team explored the First Amendment and its role in American democracy.
“All of us come from immigrant families,” said Mairena, who emigrated to the United States just three years ago. “In Nicaragua, freedom of speech does not exist.” As student journalists, the freedom of the press was already a topic that they’ve discussed, both in and out of class.
“I love the First Amendment,” said Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid in the students’ film. The mayor spoke to students, not only from the perspective of a political official, but also as the child of Cuban exiles who did not have that freedom in their native country. “It doesn’t just protect popular speech, it protects unpopular speech and it is why I am open to constructive criticism.”
This sentiment really seemed to become the common denominator in their interviews and took the project in a new direction. “We were not planning to attend the protest,” said Gonzalez, “we were actually on our way to interview a journalist, but this was just such a unique opportunity.”
There was a march to bring awareness to the political strife in Nicaragua and the students quickly went to work filming the protest and interviewing the protestors about why they were there and what the freedom to protest meant to them.
“One protestor literally told us, ‘in Nicaragua, marching like this could get you killed.’ That was big and we wanted to explore that emotion,” said Gonzalez.
It reminded the students about what the First Amendment actually means, about the rights granted to Americans, “the opportunity to think, write, walk and speak, Americans are allowed freedom,” as Sheila Banks, secretary to the federal Defense Attorney’s office told them.
And that reality changed the course of their project from an exploration of journalism and reporting in the era of “fake news” and political polarization, to an exploration of freedom.
This is why C-SPAN works to sponsor this competition each year according to Bacon. “We want students to learn and to explore, to conduct compelling interviews, at the end of the day, a documentary is storytelling.”
“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, which also support StudentCam. In Miami and Miami Lakes, C-SPAN is available locally through Comcast.
“As a strong supporter of civic education, Comcast proudly partners with C-SPAN for its annual documentary competition, StudentCam. Each year, we are impressed and inspired by Miami students’ insight and creativity tackling national issues through their short videos,” said Marta Casas-Celaya, director of External Affairs and Community Impact for Comcast in Miami, in a press release.
“We learned, or understood, that the ability to speak isn’t something that we should take for granted,” said Hudson. “At the end of the day, we were reporting a story. There are different points of view on opinions. We had to let the story unfold.”
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