Shadyside students win XTO contest

T-L Photos/ROBERT A. DEFRANK Shadyside Freshman Gage Joseph shakes hands with Thomas Cottello, commander of the Bellaire VFD Tuesday at the Shadyside High School. Johnson was one of the three Belmont County students who won a contest through XTO Energy to use multimedia skills to benefit a non-profit organization. XTO Spokeswoman Karen Matusic, in the background, said more winners from Pennsylvania schools will be announced next week.

SHADYSIDE — Three Shadyside School District high school students won a contest from XTO Energy, calling for them to use their interactive media skills to benefit area non-profit agencies.

Winners were announced Tuesday at the high school.

While XTO had originally intended to have first, second and third place winners, XTO Spokeswoman Karen Matusic said the volume of participation from Shadyside and the quality of entries impressed her. She noted that the Shadyside students distinguished themselves with 12 applicants out of a total of more than 20 in the six participating schools in Belmont County and Pennsylvania.

“We also offered it to Bellaire (School District) and Belmont/Harrison Technical,” Matusic said, adding that XTO also opened the contest to three schools in Pennsylvania: Freeport Area High School, Butler High School and Butler Area Vocational-Technical School.

Each Shadyside student received a check for $500 and and iPad, and XTO presented a check for $1,500 each to their chosen non-profit organizations.

Freshmen Kallie Long, Ryan Zumpani and Gage Joseph each produced a video project explaining the activities of an area non-profit organization and why the students thought the organization was deserving of funds.

Zumpani focused on the Books with Badges program through the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“They bring in local law enforcement into elementary schools to talk to kids and to read with them and develop that skill,” Zumpani said, adding that the program encourages the ability of children to talk with law enforcement and to trust officers at a young age, as well as continued reading. “That’s really important.”

Long’s video promoted Southeast Healthcare Services. Long said the agency offers help to individuals suffering mental illness and who are recovering from drug addiction. She thanked them for their help to the community.

“They help a lot of people in different situations,” Long said.

Joseph promoted the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 626 in Bellaire, adding that they provide education and job-seeking assistance to veterans.

“I feel that it’s very imperative that we support our veterans for everything they do. Help them get back into life after service,” Joseph said.

Joseph said the project called for skills in video editing and audio production. He added that videos had to be one minute or less. Zumpani said he employed video overlay and edited pictures.

“That was stuff we had not done before, especially something for this scale and this type of competition,” Zumpani said.

Matusic said the three participating Pennsylvania schools each had first and second place winners. Matusic added that the students had only one month to prepare their entries and XTO would consider announcing the contest with more time to prepare in the future. The Pennsylvania winners would be announced next week.

She added that an outside jury of three area philanthropists selected the winners.

“We had three first-place winners, and there’s only supposed to be one first-place winner per school,” Shadyside High School Principal John Poilek said, adding that he was proud of the students’ initiative. “They took the assignment and ran with it. We got a lot of good results. … The students had to be a little entrepreneurial and use a multimedia approach to benefit some non-profits.”

He also credited the instruction of Jamie Vinskovich, media teacher, who provided the contest information to her class.

“What she’s done with the kids and the work that the kids have done has been just incredible,” Poilek said.

Vinskovich, who is a staff member at the Belmont/Harrison Career Center, said the career center offers the interactive media classes to the Shadyside school. She added that she is proud of her students.

“These students are leaders in the classroom as well as in our community,” she said, commending the quality of their projects. “It’s heads-above most students their age, and they’re constantly improving. … We’re very grateful to XTO for offering this project to our students and we look forward to working with them again in the future.”

“It’s very nice,” Joseph Picetti, VFD member, said.

“We’re just thrilled. It’s wonderful to have kids do a video about a non-profit,” Melissa Powers, regional director of Southeast Healthcare Services, said.

Matusic added that the videos are available on XTO’s website and social media, and the non-profits and students may show them also. She said this was a new contest and XTO intended to run it again next year.

“As a company, we appreciate giving back to the community where we operate and we really want to instill that. I knew that kids around here really want to give back to the community,” she said. “We were overwhelmed by the response.”

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