After taking second place regionally last year in C-SPAN’s annual documentary competition, Adam Koch and Tyler Cooney set their sights a little higher.
“We realized that we have a year of experience under our belt. We kind of know how the process works, let’s win it this year,” said Adam Koch, a senior at Dallas Center-Grimes High School. The two seniors submitted a video entitled “Old Enough to Fight, Old Enough to Vote” to C-SPAN’s StudentCam competition.
They were honored with a $5,000 check during an assembly at the high school on Wednesday, May 9. Representatives from C-SPAN and Mediacom were on hand, as were a handful of other elected officials and representatives. DCG students could also tour the C-SPAN bus parked outside of the high school.
Koch and Cooney were still surprised when they were called into the social studies room of Jack Vanderflught to learn they were named the grand prize winners.
“They called us and Mr. Vanderflught set up a video camera and filmed us reacting. We freaked out a little bit,” Cooney said.
“Grimes is incredible but at the end of the day, we’re still small town Iowa. You don’t usually see something like this happening,” Koch added. “It was kind of surreal to have that news that we’re first in the entire nation.”
C-SPAN’s annual StudentCam contest has been around since 2006. The contest invites middle and high school students to submit a video documentary based on a particular topic.
C-SPAN received 2,985 video submissions from over 5,700 students in 46 states and Washington, D.C. One hundred fifty students and 53 teacher prizes were awarded, totaling $100,000 in prize money. Koch and Cooney took home the $5,000 grand prize award.
Vanderflught found out the news a week earlier and had to be careful not to share it before the pair were called into his room.
Koch first learned about the StudentCam competition from a poster hanging in Vanderflught’s room last year. He worked with Cooney to submit a video about renewable energy last year.
This year’s theme was “The Constitution & You: Choose a provision of the U.S. Constitution and create a video illustrating why it’s important to you.”
Koch and Cooney met multiple times to narrow down which aspect of the U.S. Constitution they wanted to tackle.
“We just settled on the 26th Amendment just because it’s very relevant to us as 18-year-olds and almost 18-year-olds,” Koch said. The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971, lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
The pair reached out to a number of elected officials to interview for the video. Officials included Sen. Chuck Grassley, Gov. Kim Reynolds, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate and more.
Koch hopes the video will speak to those watching in the audience in the DCG auditorium and across the country.
“What we hope the impact is that a lot of these 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds figure out ‘Hey, we have this right to vote, a lot of these issues are affecting us directly,’” he said.
Cooney added that a lot of young people may not realize how valuable that vote really is.
“So we need to make sure that our voices are heard,” Koch said, through casting a ballot in local and national elections.