Winning Us Over

Students Educate and Inspire in 2018–19 Video Contest

If you want to know which environmental and social issues are on teens’ minds today, the winning entries to this year’s World of 7 Billion video contest might give you some clues. Our staff viewed nearly 2,800 videos from 47 states and territories and 44 countries. In all, over 5,500 students participated in the 2018–19 contest. The theme that emerged again and again? We need to do a better job of conserving our ecosystems and protecting the most vulnerable members of our global family of 7.7 billion.

This year’s contest categories—Sustainable Resource Use, Preserving Biodiversity, and Protecting Human Rights—set the stage for creative pieces on topics as varied as pollinators, single-use plastics, conflict minerals, and gender discrimination. As in past years, the winning videos demonstrated originality and thoughtful treatment of complex issues in presenting messages in just 60 seconds.

Students’ proposed solutions to seemingly intractable problems ran the gamut from scientific innovations (e.g. using nanoparticles to conserve resources) to international cooperation (e.g. ethical mining) to individual lifestyle choices (e.g. eating less meat).

Each year, we launch the contest in September, and students have until the end of February to upload their submissions. In addition to background readings and links to reputable sources for further research, we provide guidelines and rubrics to help students craft winning videos. This year, we created a short (and funny) video—The 7 Most Common Mistakes—to help students avoid pitfalls that might disqualify their submissions (e.g. typos, using copyrighted materials without permission, speeding up their voices to stay within the time limit).

A panel of 48 judges, including educators, filmmakers, and policy experts, selected the winners from a pool of finalists determined by our Population Education staff. Once the scores were tallied, we called the winners to share the good news, and to find out a bit more about their inspiration, methods, and lessons learned as they researched and produced their top-ranked videos.

High school winners will receive $1,000 for first place, $500 for second place, and $250 for honorable mention. Middle school winners will receive $500 for first place and $250 for second place.

View winning entries on our contest website,

High School
Second Place

Lucy Barretto
Oakland, California

Ali Ransom
Poolesville, Maryland

Ethan Xiong

High School
Honorable Mentions

Sophia DeSantis
Lafayette, Colorado

Rana Duan
Sugar Land, Texas

Lyssa Frank & Katie Jacomides
Austin, Texas

Kevin Florio & Jake Florio
Boylston, Massachusetts

Jack Gasdia & Harper Colburn
Hudson, New Hampshire

Sarah Lee, Crystal Lim, & Rachel Hong
Seongnam, South Korea

Middle School
Second Place

Vedika Amin
Mumbai, India

Sydney Hopkin
Virginia Beach, Virginia

Winne Ye
Whitestone, New York

High School
First Place


Ethan Xiong, Singapore

Preserving Biodiversity

In addition to his first place win, Ethan wowed judges with his second place video in the Sustainable Resources category. Though only in 10th grade, Ethan has been making animated films for several years, and was a middle school winner two years ago. He was inspired to create “Preserve Our Priceless Pollinators” after visiting an urban farming site. He says that many in Singapore “don’t fully make the connection of how biodiversity impacts our daily lives.”


Kritin Vongthongsri & Pitt Pongpittayapa, Bangkok, Thailand

Sustainable Resource Use

These 11th-graders looked to their interest in nanotechnology for solutions to the world’s overdependence on natural resources in their winning video, “A Nanofuture.” They both have a sophisticated understanding of the subject matter, but they worked hard to “simplify the content so that anyone can understand.” Part of their winnings will go to an NGO Pitt started, called Eyesaver, which aims to distribute eye screening kits to schools all over Thailand.


Jade Christman, Alpharetta, Georgia

Protecting Human Rights

A senior at South Forsyth High School, Jade learned of the video contest from her AP Environmental Science teacher. In researching her video, “Women of Action,” she discovered, “In many areas of the world, women do not have power over their own fertility, as they face barriers to education and lack the resources for family planning.” She hopes that her video brings more attention to the issue. Jade wants to pursue a career in biomedical or neuroscience, and will be attending Georgia State University Honors College this fall.

Middle School
First Place

Ruby Ha, Teaneck, New Jersey

Preserving Biodiversity

Ruby, an eighth-grader at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, has been recording videos on her phone since as early as she can remember, but this was her first contest entry. “In Your Backyard” focuses on the role of pollinators and ways to attract them by including different plants in residential gardens. Ruby has been inspired by a Global Concerns class to “be a humanitarian,” and she thinks education holds the key. “If we give people an opportunity to learn,” she says, “it can have a true ripple effect in their families, communities, and eventually all over the world.”


Honor Dodd, Los Angeles, California

Sustainable Resource Use

It may not be surprising that a student in LA would be interested in filmmaking. But Honor, an eighth-grader at Wildwood School, also has a passion for environmental science and for putting ideas into action. “In my personal day-to-day life, I really try to use resources sustainably [e.g. metal containers for lunch, reusable water bottles], so that’s why I chose the topic.” In “Switch to Rechargeable,” she shows why rechargeable batteries are so much better for the planet than disposable ones. She told us that after she made the video, her whole family switched over to using rechargeable batteries.


Noa Biener, Eleanor Bennett & Lucy Benavides, Shorewood, Wisconsin

Protecting Human Rights

This is not the first win for students from Shorewood Intermediate School. Their World Geography teachers have been including the contest in their syllabi for several years. Noa, Eleanor, and Lucy tackled a complicated subject in “Coltan: A Conflict Mineral.” It centers on the exploitation of Congolese children who mine coltan, a mineral found in many electronic devices, including mobile phones. Their video advocates for setting up an international commission to make sure all coltan is ethically and sustainably mined.


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