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Indian River student in top three in state contest

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PHILADELPHIA — A 25-second public service announcement could win an Indian River Central School senior up to $15,000 for her school.

Sarah K. Loudon, 18, is one of the top three winners in New York Central Mutual Insurance’s Distracted Driving Video Contest.

She will find out at an assembly today where she placed.

“I’m really, genuinely excited about it, and I’m also excited about the giant check,” Miss Loudon said.

The video hatched from an assignment in teacher Dustin K. Burdick’s video production class. Mr. Burdick said the students chose Miss Loudon’s video to submit to the contest.

“If you can just prevent one accident from making some videos, I think it’s worth it,” Mr. Burdick said.

New York Central Mutual’s social media specialist, Lisa A. Clark, said this is the second year the company has held the contest.

“We feel it is an important message for teenage drivers,” Mrs. Clark said.

This year, 48 videos were received from 30 schools across the state. The top 15 videos were placed on the company’s Facebook page and are eligible for a $500 People’s Choice Award that goes directly to the student. Makers of the top three videos receive $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 prizes for their school.

“We’re a New York state company,” Mrs. Clark said. “With all the changes in the schools and having to deal with budget cuts, we thought it would be better to have the money go to the schools.”

Mr. Burdick said the video production class could always use more money.

“The school has been very generous, but we always need equipment here,” he said. “This program is only four years old.”

For Miss Loudon, making videos is more than just completing an assignment. She has been taking Mr. Burdick’s class for the past three years, moving up the ranks to become program manager.

She also is one of the few students whom Mr. Burdick trusts with the school’s high-definition Sony Handycam outside the classroom. The camcorder is the sole piece of equipment Miss Loudon used to record the raw footage for her distracted-driving clip.

“If I didn’t take this class, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” Miss Loudon said.

Her video shows scenes of the roadside memorial for a young Fort Drum soldier killed in a car accident in 2006. A Fort Drum police officer talks about the tragedy of the life lost because the soldier was texting.

“They told me that the soldier who was driving was using a cellphone,” Miss Loudon said. “I thought that would be more hard-hitting with the students here.”

Most of the time she spent creating the clip was used to whittle several minutes of footage to 25 seconds.

“The deadline for the video was in December,” Miss Loudon said. “It took me weeks and weeks to cut it down.”

The school assembly is set for 1:30 p.m. today in the high school auditorium and will feature students’ personal accounts of distracted driving, a lecture by Fort Drum police and an announcement of which place Miss Loudon won in the contest.

Her video can be found at http://vimeo.com/58632723.

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