3 local students finalists for statewide conservation video contest

Travis County

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Three students from central Texas, two middle-schoolers and a high-schooler, are finalists for a statewide video contest that encourages conservation and environmental stewardship.

Samantha Vaca and DJ Richard, both eighth-grade students at Hudson Bend Middle School in Lake Travis ISD are competing against four other students from Texas in the finals. 

Kate Saltel, a sophomore at Westlake High School in Eanes ISD, is competing against five other high school students.

All the students who entered the contest put on by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, produced 30-second public service announcements with the tagline “Take care of Texas; it’s the only one we’ve got.”

Click here to watch all the videos, then vote for your favorite through Thursday, Jan. 24 at 4 p.m.

“I was like in shock,” Vaca said of her reaction when her video production teacher told her she was a finalist.

The 13-year-old’s video is a collection of conservation and recycling tips. She appears in the video, but large portions are animated — something she learned to do just for the project to help her video stand out.

Richard was surprised by making the finals, too. His PSA takes a comedic approach to the problem of litter, recruiting a friend to play a police officer who gets a call about a hostage situation. When the officer shows up, Richard is holding a plastic bottle threatening to drop it on the ground.

“You go around in this area and you see litter all the time just on the ground,” Richard explained. “And it’s just like, well why can’t people just pick it up?”

Both of the students are new to video production after signing up for a class with Stephen Beatty, the video and broadcast teacher at the school. He assigned all 120 of his students to make a PSA to get real-world experience, but left it up to them whether they wanted to submit it to the contest. Most of them did, he said, which was gratifying for someone who believes in the message.

“The contest and what’s behind the contest is getting a lot more publicity right now,” Beatty said, “which is what’s really important.”

Vaca and Richard think so, too. There’s not really a rivalry between the two of them, they said; they’re  both happy the other is in the finals. They’re also happy they’re helping spread the message to new generations of Texans.

“You live in this place. It’s not like, oh my gosh, poof, you can just start from scratch if you litter…and turn everything into a big junkyard,” Vaca said. 

Saltel’s video uses Texas history as a way to promote a cleaner future. 

“We have fought through many wars, dealt with hard conflicts and challenges, and we’re still here strong and proud,” she says in her PSA.

“But you’re going to waste all this history by doing this silly mistake?” she continues as the camera pans down to a plastic bottle on the state capitol grounds.

Saltel is competing for one of three top spots that will receive scholarships between $500 and $2,500. Vaca and Richard are competing for one of three GoPro camera packages.

Winners will be announced at the end of February.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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