Young men take first in anti-drug contest

Created PSA for law enforcement

HOWLAND — Two Howland High School students won first place in the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force’s Anti-Drug Public Service Announcement contest.

The team of Zach Perez, 16, and Bobby Webber, 18, won $1,000 for the school’s multimedia program.

“I’m a little bit relieved in one sense, but then I’m also really excited because, through Mr. O’Dell’s help and through me and Bobby’s collaboration, I feel like this project really has awesome potential and that it could go places,” Perez said.

The deadline for students to submit was April 24. Entries where reviewed by the TAG team with Howland High School winning first place; Hubbard High School winning $250 for second second place and Chalker High School in Southington winning a pizza party for third place. To enter the contest, students needed to create an approximately 90-second public service announcement focused on the health and safety risks of illicit drug use.

“When I heard Howland was the number one, I wasn’t surprised. They have a really good program in their high school. And Mr. O’Dell does a great job with his students and makes this a project for them every year,” said TAG Capt. Tony Villanueva.

This is the third year Howland students have entered the TAG Anti-Drug PSA contest. In years past, students have won first and second place. Their winning PSA also has the chance of being used in TAG presentations and in school curriculums.

The project by Perez and Webber is titled “Picking up the Pieces” and it is about a father who is struggling to be there for his family because of his drug addiction. The two-minute video was inspired by a desire to tell a unique and non-statistic oriented narrative. Webber and Perez hope to reach as many people as they can with their PSA and said their message emphasizes helping people seek treatment for addictions.

“These kids really put in the time and effort to make this video what it is. They set a standard of expectation for themselves and they met it. I personally think they exceeded it. They deserve this for the hard work and dedication they put in,” said multi-media teacher Brian O’Dell. “I’m really proud of these guys.”

Perez and Webber worked on “Picking up the Pieces” in their multimedia classes. The two students had multimedia at different times of the day, but still managed to collaborate on their project.

“Our thought process was, if we can show that the addicted understand they’re doing wrong. People outside don’t realize, they understand that there’s just nothing they can do about it because every time they want to do something right they do something wrong. And I think that was the clear cut message of the script,” O’Dell said.

It took them about two months to complete between pre-production, filming, audio recording and editing. O’Dell spoke with Perez originally about entering the contest, but he wanted to work on the project as a team and asked Webber to be his teammate. Webber was responsible for shooting, with Perez focusing on editing the video.

O’Dell posts contests on the multimedia class website, letting student select any contest they want to enter, and he gives them the chance to work on them in class as assignments. In the multimedia class, O’Dell teaches students how to use multimedia equipment and programs, allowing them to pick where they want to focus.

“Picking up the Pieces” is also entered in the All American Film Festival and The Student Production Awards, which are film contests for high school students.

“I don’t know, for me at least, if it’s necessarily about the competition. It’s more of an experience. It’s more of there are other people doing PSAs,” Webber said. “I could be wrong in this, but I don’t think anybody’s done what we’ve done. So we definitely took a unique approach. I think it’s something that’s gonna get us pretty far because nobody really thinks of their (the addict’s) mindset.”

Perez is a junior and is on the track team. Webber is a senior and is a part of the Howland High School Live Production team and a member of Paws with a Cause, a volunteer group benefiting shelter animals.

After his spring graduation, Webber plans to study multimedia at Eastern Gateway Community College for two years before transferring to Youngstown State University to continue his multimedia studies. Perez is considering a media or journalism degree, but has not decided on a school or program yet.