Student keeps school’s winning tradition in C-SPAN competition

“Healthcare and America’s Well-Being: Being American and Its Effect on Americans’ Health” could well be the premise of a scholarly journal article or a dissertation. In fact, it’s the title 13-year-old Caitlyn Pinsker gave to a six-minute video speech that won honorable mention in StudentCam, a national competition sponsored by C-SPAN.

Pinsker, an eighth grader at the Alfred and Adele Davis Academy in Sandy Springs, received a $250 prize and a campus visit from C-SPAN’s bus last month. The honor capped months of working on her submission that included interviews with Senator Johnny Isakson, a CDC doctor and a Georgia State professor.

“The easiest part was that the people were really flexible and found time to meet with me,” said Pinsker, who donated her prize to a worthy cause. “The hardest was the editing. I had a lot of information I had to get rid of, and I spent a lot of time fixing the audio, trying to make it less choppy.”

The Marietta resident began working on her submission last fall as part of an elective class on film and video production that has eighth graders developing individual research and writing projects. Kendrick Phillips, the school’s director of visual and performing arts, has had 11 students enter the C-SPAN competition in the last seven years, and 11 earned prizes.

“It is a laborious project, but they are really learning life skills – negotiating, cold-calling, writing emails, interviewing, researching,” she said. “It’s life meets business meets civics. But the students realize their voices are their power, and the camera is their tool. With those, they can accomplish great things.”

Students have access to the school’s fully-outfitted audio visual studio, but most opt to develop their projects on cell phones. That gave Pinsker the flexibility to work weekends, holiday breaks and in the early hours before school started to complete her presentation.

“I didn’t realize I was interested in film and video until this year, and that’s something I’ll take with me,” she said. “I know how to make a movie and documentary. I also learned that health care is really complicated, and it’s hard for some people to get good care.”

For Associate Head of School and Principal Drew Frank, those civics lessons are the foundation of a strong visual and performing arts program.

“So many of our civics and moral teachings come through the fine arts,” he said “Kids have flocked to this class where they can investigate challenging issues that are often lacking in civil discourse. At a time when schools are cutting fine arts, they may not realize what they’re impacting is not loss of future artists but future citizens.”

Information about Davis Academy is online at davisacademy.org.

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