During a press conference held at ED headquarters, participants were able to talk with all three winners via video conferencing.
“I want to thank each of you for your creativity, thoughtfulness, and for setting a great example for the country by creating your videos,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the winners. “Thousands of people voted for you, and you should be proud of the impact you’ve made.”
Harris, whose father is in jail for assaulting her mother—who recently suffered a stroke—urged her peers to “make the best of the situation they’re in.”
“I stay positive throughout all of this for my mom, and I also have great friends and teachers who support me,” she said.
Harris’s teacher, Mr. V, was with her during the video conference, and he said it’s critical for students to have the chance to express themselves and do the kind of work this contest allowed for. Harris’s teachers are the ones who heard about the video contest.
Harris said she plans to use the money she received to help her mother, as well as start her own video business with her friend, called Freedom Videos, which she urged people to check out on YouTube.
“My situation and my mom inspired me to make this video. Last year my grades weren’t what I wanted them to be, but when I made this video and talked about education, it was like a goal for myself that I was setting in stone, saying that I could succeed. Since then, my grades have improved,” she said.
Hughes, who will use his money not only to save for college but also to contribute to a leukemia fundraiser at his school, said at first he was apprehensive about entering the video contest.
“The lesson I learned and want to tell other students to remember is that you should always take advantage of every opportunity,” he said. “When I heard the contest included college students, I was disheartened and put it off, thinking I wouldn’t stand a chance. But I decided to try anyway, and now look what’s happened. It’s going to look great in my college portfolio, too.”
Hughes’ parents said their son was so enthusiastic about creating the video that when they went away one weekend, they returned to find he had painted a wall of the garage to create a green screen.
“He’s always had talent with video,” said Hughes’ father. “He even helps with some of the sales stuff we have at my business.”
Lederman’s parents said they also were very proud of their daughter. Lederman’s mother heard about the video contest through a school district eMail message.
“I learned that learning can be fun,” said Lederman, “and when you know that learning can be fun, it makes you want to learn more.”
“These students have demonstrated creativity and passion in sharing their personal stories,” said Duncan. “I congratulate each of them for winning this contest, and I wish them the best in continuing to pursue their dreams.”
Department of Education