C-SPAN 2020

Hamid Torabzadeh, Pia Hao and Katherine Padilla took home first place in the C-SPAN 2020 StudentCam Competition for their short documentary film, "Vision 2020: Restoring the Integrity of American Democracy."

Young Long Beach journalists have something to be proud of.

C-SPAN has awarded 10 Poly High School students with cash prizes for their political video submissions for the 2020 StudentCam Competition.

Separated into East, West and Central state divisions, schools from the across the country provided their political discourse on topics that impact the world today, vying for viewers and prizes.

In total, 5,400 students from 44 states submitted their own news reels covering topics that include public education, health care, immigration, gun control and the environment, to name a few.

But only some of those submissions came out on top, and Poly swept the competition, winning first, second and third place prizes in the competition's West Division.

First place was awarded to 11th graders Hamid Torabzadeh, Pia Hao and Katherine Padilla for their take on the state of democracy with their report "Vision 2020: Restoring the Integrity of American Democracy." Their documentary looked at corporations, campaign financing and political corruption.

"When we were initially brainstorming the different ideas that are prevalent today, we looked at student loan debt, climate change, all of the pressing issues we’ve been exposed to in Long Beach," Torabzadeh said. "But we always came back to the same problem, that our democracy and our democratic institutions are not acknowledging the general people’s views. The legislation and policy in place are in favor of the congresspeople, the senators, the people who fund their campaigns."

The group added that they started working on the video last August, and between shooting the video, interviewing California's elected officials and then editing it all down to 15 minutes on screen, they said that they spent around 100 hours to get the work done. 

And it was worth it, Hao said, because they were able to speak to Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, former presidential candidate Tom Steyer and Congressman Alan Lowenthal.

"The hardest part of this process was not interviewing but compiling all of the information," Padilla said. "This experience is very enriching as a student and as a person who will take part in the political discourse in the future."

Although a career in politics looks promising, neither teammate plans on pursuing that path in the future.

"The interesting part of the whole thing is none of us really want to pursue politics or law — I want to go into the medical field and Katherine wants to be a computer scientist," Torabzadeh said. "But we do realize that any specific discipline you’re in is going to be affected by our democratic institutions, so we all need to be aware."

Other Poly students were recognized for their submissions, too.

Kyra Kawamura and Alexa Bryson will receive $1,500 as second prize winners for the documentary, "Opportunity for All," about free college tuition. The documentary will air on C-SPAN at 3:50 a.m. and throughout the day on Friday, April 10.

Maya Randolph will receive $750 as a third prize winner for the documentary, "Justice for All," about criminal justice reform.

Solene Millsap and Lillian Dailey will receive $250 as honorable mention winners for the documentary, "The Homeless Epidemic."

Diana Michaelson and Visud Chang will receive $250 as honorable mention winners for the documentary, "More than Meets the Eye: A Look at the Affordable Housing Crisis."

The contest's grand prize and fan favorite win went to Jason Lin, Sara Yen and Amar Karoshi from San Jose.

Each year since 2006, Washington, D.C.-based C-SPAN partners with its local cable television providers nationwide to invite middle and high school students to produce short documentaries about a subject of national importance.

For more information, and to view the rest of the submission videos, go to studentcam.org.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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