Student Videographers Tackle Global Challenges

The end of the school year is a time to celebrate students’ achievements. As we announce the winners of this year’s World of 7 Billion Student Video Contest, we are pleased to recognize the talented teens from around the world who created the best moving messages.

For the 2015 contest, we asked high school students to create a short video about human population growth that highlights one of three global challenges:

  • The world is in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.
  • Most of the world’s suitable farmland is already under cultivation.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 10 primary-school-age children and 1 in 3 secondary-age children are not enrolled in school.

To help students begin their research and to provide teachers with a worthy classroom assignment, our contest website included background readings on the three topics and links to useful resources. Over the course of the school year, we highlighted news stories on the topics in our blog posts and on social media.

From surveying the students we found that over half participated in the contest, at least initially, as a class assignment. “What seemed like a boring assignment turned into an inspiring pursuit for the truth about the world I live in,” wrote one responder. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to participate in this contest whether there was a prize or not.”

We wanted to know students’ inspiration for the topic they chose. For many, there was a personal connection. “My grandparents are farmers in India, and my video partner’s father lived on a farm for part of his life, and we wanted to explore solutions for a problem so closely intertwined with our ancestry,” wrote one. Or this from one of our international entrants: “I live in Zambia where I see the effects of poverty. I know how hard it is to get an education and I want more people to see this as well.”

In all, we received 865 entries, created by over 1,600 students in 39 states, DC, and 24 countries. A panel of 28 judges, including college and high school educators, filmmakers, and professionals working in the topic fields, selected the winners. First place winners for each category received $1,000, second place winners $500, and honorable mentions $250. You can view this year’s winning entries, along with the students’ photos and bios on our contest website,

Katherine Selley and Catherine Knox

The World is in the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction

Katherine Selley and Catherine Knox are rising seniors at Broadneck High School in Annapolis, Maryland, where they are both active in the Science National Honor Society. Last year in their AP Environmental Science class, they learned about population growth and its impacts, including the strain on the world’s biodiversity. For their video, “What Will Happen to Us?” they included images of cities, forests, and coral reefs from their family travels to Africa, Europe, Asia, and Central America to “show the global effects of the issue.” Their interest in environmental stewardship is both global and local. They recently helped to organize an event at an underprivileged elementary school to teach younger kids about problems facing the Chesapeake Bay and its ecosystems.

Madison Bernier

Most of the World’s Suitable Farmland is Already Under Cultivation

Madison Bernier, a rising junior at First Colonial High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, created her video, “Our Future Food Demand,” as an assignment in her AP Human Geography class. “We learned about people per land area and how that affects crops and how they’ll be grown.” In her video, Madison offers several sustainable solutions to the challenge of feeding a growing population, including vertical farming, natural pest control, and eating a more plant-based diet. Madison is a first-time filmmaker and said that finding a way to fit everything into a one-minute video was her biggest challenge. She found that picking a topic that really interested her, conducting in-depth research, and organizing her thoughts were key to her success.

Andrew Schwenn

Worldwide, 1 in 10 Primary-School-Age Children and 1 in 3 Secondary-Age Children Are Not Enrolled in School

Andrew Schwenn is a graduating senior from Coppell High School in Coppell, Texas. Started as an assignment for his Environmental Science class, his video, “What Would You Sacrifice for an Education?” is executed in a polished infographic style with the overall message that education breaks the cycle of overpopulation. “I was shocked at how many people across the world don’t have access to education at all,” Andrew told us. In his video, Andrew advocates for training more teachers, building more schools, and donating school supplies. When not making films, Andrew plays electric and classical guitar and creates video games. This fall, he is headed to Texas A&M University to study computer engineering.

Second Place Winners

Michael Kuroda
“The Sixth Mass Extinction”

Piedmont, California
Dylan Kroft

“Save Land, Save Humanity”
Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Hailey Hess
“Stop the Cycle”
Coppell, Texas

Honorable Mentions

Elizabeth Hwang
“We Did This to Ourselves”
Pullman, Washington

Angel Nkwonta
“Sixth Mass Extinction”
Pullman, Washington

Prerana Pai
“Time to Change”
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Tim Eddy
Ballina, Australia

Cynthia Zhou
“Beef Up Sustainable Farming”
Vancouver, Canada

Matthew Buxton
“Universal Education and How It Gives Everyone a Fair Chance”
Sandy, Utah

Niquelle Lewis
“Would You Make the Difference?”
Idaho Falls, Idaho

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