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Valley News Dispatch

Local high schools ask for votes in FBI anti-opioid video contest

| Monday, Dec. 17, 2018, 4:42 p.m.

Some local high school students are trying to promote the vote — for a video competition.

Online voting for the 2018-19 FBI HOPE (Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education) PSA Contest is in full swing, and Leechburg Area , Highlands and Freeport Area are three participating high schools seeking votes from the public.

The annual contest, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, aims to raise opioid use awareness among high school students in Western Pennsylvania.

This year’s theme is “Speak Out To Save Lives,” and teams were asked to create a one-to-three-minute video based on why opioid rehabilitation is so difficult and how to destigmatize myths of opioid struggles.

Recent FBI statistics show Pennsylvania teens ages 15-24 have a 380 percent increase in their odds of a fentanyl-related death. The Pennsylvania rate of 44.3 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents is more than double the national average.

In his acting debut, Leechburg student Nick Sherbondy portrays a person witnessing his older brother, played by Roman Yurjevich, fall prey to opioid addiction.

“I had to use fake tears — well, I had to use eye drops — because I was supposed to be sad and I really wasn’t sad about anything,” Nick Sherbondy said.

But voters take note.

This isn’t a Facebook thing.

“Liking it on Facebook won’t work,” Leechburg video club director and junior Sophie Daugherty said. “We need people to like and share from the YouTube post.”

Highland’s Library Club submitted a video based on an actual 911 overdose-related call.

“We changed the names and used a free software program, and we don’t have a television studio like some of the other high schools,” said Sandy Reidmiller, Highlands library media specialist.

A total of six prizes will be awarded in two categories: People’s Choice (decided by online YouTube likes and shares) and Judge’s Choice.

The deadline for online YouTube shares and likes is Friday.

Two first prizes will be awarded and include a $5,000 cash grant, ten tickets to a VIP party suite for a Pittsburgh Penguins game to be determined in February and participation in an “FBI Agent for a Day” experience at the FBI Pittsburgh field office.

All monetary prizes will be given as a grant from the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation to the winning school district.

Freeport Area High School has been on a winning streak for two years, winning in both the judges and people’s choice categories, video teacher Tawna Lunz said.

“Last year, we placed first in the People’s Choice category with our video, “Fight Back,” Lunz said.

Three AK Valley high schools swept the 2017-18 People’s Choice category with Freeport taking first place, Fox Chapel second and Leechburg third.

“These students aren’t given a grade on this. They just feel it’s an important issue,” Leechburg technology teacher Tanya Sherbondy said.

Joyce Hanz is a freelance writer.

Leechburg Area High School is one of the local schools seeking votes for its anti-drug video entry.
Leechburg Area High School is one of the local schools seeking votes for its anti-drug video entry.
Highlands High School students are asking the public to vote for their anti-drug video in an FBI-sponsored video contest.
Highlands High School students are asking the public to vote for their anti-drug video in an FBI-sponsored video contest.
Freeport students hope their entry in an FBI anti-drug video contest will bring the most votes from the public.
Freeport students hope their entry in an FBI anti-drug video contest will bring the most votes from the public.
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