Juniors Sophia and Brianna win third place prize in Student-Cam with a documentary about Chesapeake Bay Conservation


From Johanna Pentapaty

Sophia Deng and Brianna Akumoah-Boateng won the East Coast Third Place prize for Student Cam with their documentary “Education: The Bay’s Greatest Defense”. Student-Cam is a contest hosted by C-SPAN, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, which is an American cable and satellite television network created as a nonprofit public service. Student-Cam is an annual national video documentary competition that encourages students across the country to critically analyze issues that affect our communities. It is open to students in grades 6-12 to create a short (5-6 minute) video documentary on a topic that relates to this year’s competition theme, “If you were a newly elected member of Congress, which issue would be your priority and why?” 

According to the C-Span website, winning StudentCam documentaries should explore a variety of viewpoints related to their chosen topic, including those that may oppose the filmmaker’s points of view. Judges look to see a balanced presentation of differing viewpoints. According to Brianna, the team picked the topic of the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay because they had background knowledge on it as Global students.

“We focused on pollution and rising sea levels as they’re the easiest for people to understand and identify,” said Akumoah-Boateng.

They had experience with video editing, interviewing, and documentary making because they had entered this same contest in middle school for the Humanities program. They were able to apply that knowledge to communicating with Bay professionals and setting up interviews. In the documentary, there are multiple teachers, professors, county representatives, and Bay professionals who are speaking about its health.          

“We chose these people because they were experts on the topic we were working on and I’ve worked with them all before so it was easy for me to text most of them or shoot them a quick email,” said Akumoah-Boateng.

Deng says that working on this project helped her grow as a student because she learned to split a large project into smaller more manageable pieces. It also helped grow her communication skills because she had to work with many different people.

“Throughout the making of this project I learned how to collaborate with others to achieve the same goal,” said Deng.

Their mentor and interviewee, Global teacher, John Sparrow, assisted them with his interest in the Chesapeake Bay as well as knowledge gained by Global projects. He was able to guide them throughout the process by answering questions and giving them feedback. He strongly believes that the Chesapeake Bay is a worthy cause and is proud of the duo for bringing attention to this issue. 

“It’s [Chesapeake Bay] where we live. It’s who we are,” said Sparrow. “So many organizations work with the Chesapeake Bay and it’s worth protecting. I grew up right on it.”

He further praises Deng and Akumoah-Boateng for their dedication and hard work to complete this documentary.

“They seem very self-motivated to get it going. Calling and lining up interviews with all these people is amazing,” said Sparrow. “It’s not easy….They did a very nice job putting this together in a very tight package…It caught your attention. I like the way it tied in the education of public policy with legislation.” 

The duo was presented with a Certificate of Special Recognition from C-SPAN Founder Brian Lamb and co-President Susan Swain. Both of which came to Poolesville in person to meet them. They had a press release for the duo and had a Q&A session in front of the Global Junior class. Additionally, they received a Certificate of Special Recognition – Montgomery County Council from President Evan Glass, Senator Ben Cardin, and Senator Chris Van Hollen.

Additionally, Akumoah-Boateng and Deng received a $750 prize for their winning documentary. Deng plans to save her money and Akumoah-Boateng chose to invest part of it into a business she is starting.