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April 3, 2013

Laurens video contest entry wins $15K prize

By Mark Boshnack
The Daily Star

---- — A team of students and their parent adviser from Laurens Central School won top honors in a statewide contest.

The school will receive $15,000 for the effort in the New York Central Mutual Insurance contest to convince teens about the dangers of distracted driving, including texting.

It competed against finalists from Levittown and Philadelphia, N.Y., with the winner first announced at the afternoon assembly at Laurens multipurpose room. Similar presentations were made at the other schools in competition, who also received cash prizes. They were chosen from 48 entries from state public school students in grades nine through 12.

Some of those in attendance at the Laurens presentation, including Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, and Otsego Sheriff Richard Devlin, spoke before the winner was announced by Dan Robinson, chief executive officer of the Edmeston-based agency.

“Your message was very strong,” Robinson said to the students. He said hopes the video, which could be used in public service announcements, will influence others to change their behavior.

The 25-second video, titled “Dangers of Distracted Driving,” can be seen at the NYCM Insurance Facebook page. Voting for the People’s Choice Award runs through April 30.

The team was advised by Laurens parent JoAnn Gardner, who said she has a background in video production. When Laurens Central School Superintendent Romona Wenck asked if she would be interested in leading the effort, she said she didn’t hesitate. She thought of 11th-graders Dan Malony and Carter Powers because of their video experience. The rest of group formed after that.

“They knew that they would have to come up with something a little different,” she said.

Senior Lakin Poje had the feature role. Coming from a relatively small school, “I’m definitely surprised” the entry won, she said. It was “weird” seeing herself in the video. She doesn’t text while driving but “it’s definitely is a problem.”

The video sends a good message, she said, and is a little different than how the issue is usually seen. Others appearing include Poje’s sister Lynzi Poji, Eric Ericson, Kathleen Francisco, Rainer Gardner-Olesen, Rachel Murello and Aaliya Conklin. All participants are Laurens students except Conklin, who is a baby.

Wenck thanked all those involved with making the video and presenting the award.

“We were always hoping it would win, but you don’t know what the judges are looking for,” she said.

The school hasn’t decided how to use the money, and will collect ideas from students and give it some thought, she said.