Healthcare isn’t a big, flashy topic that attracts many middle schoolers’ attention, but it caught Caitlyn Pinsker’s eye. She decided to create a documentary for C-SPAN’s annual StudentCam competition in which she discussed the topic with experts.
Her documentary was chosen as one of 150 from a field of more than 2,923 throughout 48 states and Washington D.C., and Pinsker’s achievement was celebrated March 22 in a ceremony at The Davis Academy middle school.
The morning kicked off with students checking out C-SPAN’s interactive bus, which has toured the country since 1993. The experience included touch-screen displays with quizzes and information, and face-to-face interaction with C-SPAN representatives who answered questions and discussed the purpose of the network’s coverage of public affairs.
The ceremony, which coincided with Davis’ Purim celebrations, lending a festive air, opened with remarks from Rabbi Micah Lapidus.
Kendrick Phillips, Davis’ director of visual and performing arts and Pinsker’s faculty advisor, discussed the process of making the film in class and how important opportunities like this were for students.
“C-Span’s national documentary competition StudentCam is the perfect vehicle for my film production class to create, write and produce documentaries that empower their voices as young filmmakers exploring their interests and topics in civics, and affecting their lives as Americans,” Phillips told the AJT.
At Davis for the second year in a row to recognize a student’s film, C-SPAN representative Joel Bacon discussed the network’s role as an unbiased, gavel-to-gavel news source.
Pinsker’s film, “Healthcare and America’s Well Being: Being American and its Effect on Americans’ Health,” was screened in front of hundreds of students, teachers and family.
She spoke to a number of experts in creating the film, including William Custer, Georgia State University professor and director of the Center for Health Services Research, and Dr. Von Nguyen from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At the Davis ceremony, Bacon presented Pinsker with her award. He later discussed the competition with the AJT.
“The most important part is to be able to go in depth into an issue,” he said. “It really is about doing the research, showing all sides of the issue and telling a narrative, which is an important part of a documentary.”
He explained what stood out about Pinsker’s film, saying, “The way Caitlyn talked about healthcare in a very serious manner and how it related to being American, and that’s important to us.”
During a few brief remarks at the ceremony, Pinsker thanked Phillips for her help with the film and everyone involved in the selection process at C-SPAN.
“I learned so much from working on this project. I not only learned how to make a documentary, but I also learned so much about healthcare and America,” Pinsker told the AJT. “I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to participate in this competition. I would not have been able to win without working hard and the mentoring of my faculty advisor, Ms. Phillips.”
Pinsker added that she had discussed fighting homelessness at her TED Talk — a program through which eighth-graders conduct research and present their findings within a theme — and that she would be donating the $250 prize from StudentCam to a local homeless shelter.
Following the Davis event, the C-SPAN bus traveled to Walton High School, where three students were honored for their winning film.
Phillips said that the importance of the competition is in its ability to reach beyond what is ordinarily possible in a classroom, teaching skills such as interviewing, writing and production, as well as how to interact with experts and conduct polls, and filming and editing original content.
“Caitlyn worked tirelessly, passionately and was open to mentoring throughout her entire experience. I am deeply proud of her,” Phillips said.
In her final thoughts to the AJT, Pinsker’s message was very simple. “Working hard and thinking big pays off,” she said.
For more information on the competition and to see previous winners, visit www.studentcam.org. View Caitlyn Pinsker’s film here.