Graham Middle School students Aria Rani Sindledecker and Anika Raman recently received recognition from C-SPAN for their submissions to its StudentCam competition, which invites middle and high schoolers throughout the nation to enter a short documentary.
“I wasn’t really expecting anything, so when I found out, it was a little unbelievable,” said Aria, a seventh-grader from Mountain View.
According to C-SPAN representatives, the cable public affairs network received more than 1,200 responses to the 2021 prompt: “Which issue do you most want the president and new Congress to address in 2021?” Aria chose to focus on adolescent mental health and social media, while Anika tackled education inequality. Both received honorable mentions and an accompanying prize of $250.
“We are so impressed by the resilience and ingenuity of this year’s prize-winning students, who have delivered among the finest short films in the history of the StudentCam competition,” said Craig McAndrew, director of C-SPAN education relations, in a statement.
For Anika, the opportunity popped up as an ad on her mom’s Facebook page. The eighth-grader added that she chose education as her topic after learning more about her school’s modified schedule for virtual learning. Two-hour lunch breaks were instituted to accommodate low-income students traveling to receive a free or reduced-price meal, according to Anika.
“It really got me thinking about how lucky some of us are,” the Mountain View resident said. “Even though there’s nothing saying students who are low-income can’t be in the advanced track, there’s a lot of things preventing them.”
Anika’s six-minute video, “Education: Our Promise to America,” features interviews with teachers as well as Ayindé Rudolf, superintendent of the Mountain View Whisman School District.
“It was a really fun process,” Anika said.
Aria said she was encouraged to enter C-SPAN’s contest by the teacher of her broadcasting and video editing class. Aria’s interest in science and neurology led her to explore the topic of mental health.
“Social media has really taken a toll on the brains of teens and tweens,” she said. “Mental health is really, really important right now, especially during the pandemic.”
Like Anika’s, Aria’s video featured interviews with professionals, including a psychiatrist and a high school counselor, along with a variety of graphics and slides. She said she titled her video “Power to Save a Life” to emphasize the importance of digital citizenship.
Contest results were announced March 10 at 6 a.m. – which Aria called the “drop-dead morning” – but both students said they were too excited to sleep in that day.
“I was overjoyed and so excited to tell all those people that helped me and supported me throughout this process,” Anika said. “That morning was just really fun.”
As for the future, Anika and Aria have big plans that include finding additional ways to make a positive impact on the world. Aria said she wants to go into medicine or creative writing, having already published two books. Anika said she could see herself as a doctor, politician or singer. She added that C-SPAN’s contest helped her on her path as an advocate.
“I’ve always wanted my voice to be heard, and now I feel that after I’ve gotten this honorable mention, I really do feel heard,” Anika said. “I’m really happy with how it all turned out.”
To watch Aria’s documentary, visit viddler.com/v/8d07f070. To watch Anika’s documentary, visit viddler.com/v/ae8990f3.
For more information on the contest, visit studentcam.org.