State champions Dustin Gentis and Conner Haler, both seniors at Eastside High School, took home second place honors in the Digital Video Production category at the recent national FBLA Competition in San Antonio, Texas.
"Obviously, we are extremely proud of Conner and Dustin," said Jeff Cher, principal of Eastside High School. "When you see their video, you immediately realize that these young men are creative and talented. It is exciting to see the opportunities that these two students have created for themselves. I am glad that their hard work and investment of time are being rewarded with all the accolades and well-deserved recognition."
With two teams per state and 35 states represented, the duo competed against 69 other finalists from across the nation. The national topic for the Digital Video Production category was "The Dangers of Texting and Driving."
"We were a little intimidated because we were competing against other state champions and we didn't know what was out there," said Haler.
"We really didn't know what to expect," said Gentis.
In addition to the video itself, the students were scored on their presentation to the judges.
"It's not just the video," said Gentis. "We had to make a presentation in front of the judges. We had to explain how we came up with the idea for our video and how we used the equipment to come up with an effective piece."
"We only got seven minutes and that included the time to show the video," said Haler. "There was also a three-minute question and answer round where the judges asked us questions about our project so we had to make sure that we knew our stuff. It's worth 10 points out of the 100 and you have no idea what they might ask so a lot of our preparation was preparing for questions they might ask."
After the preliminary round on day one, the Eastside team learned they had made it to the final cut and were one of just 15 finalists.
"We had to stay up late that night," said Gentis. "There was a big crowded room of people waiting to room of people waiting to see if they made it to the finals. We were pretty confident that we would make it because we felt that we had really worked hard."
"We were confident but the wait was agonizing," Haler said.
During the final round of competition, the duo had to present their project all over again to a new set of judges and a packed audience.
"We had to wait three days to find out how we did," said Haler. "On the night of the award ceremony, they called all the finalists in the category on stage and started announcing the places backwards. We started getting excited after we were still on stage for fourth and third place."
Gentis said they are very proud of their second place finish (a team from Alabama won first place honors).
"It supports the idea that we worked hard and tried to create something that was quality and effective," he said.
Haler noted that their project was different from others presented at the competition.
"We spent more time looking into the psychology of teens when it comes to texting and driving," he said. "Most of the projects focused on a car crash and killing somebody. We also included the fact that you could go to jail. You could hit a child in the street and destroy a family in the process," said Haler.
According to Haler, the two are using the knowledge they've gained from working on the project to spread the word about the dangers of texting while driving.
"We're now speaking at the New London Driving School," said Haler. "We're speaking about the dangers of texting and driving to 15 and 16 year olds who are just now learning how to drive."
"Winning second place in the nation is an extraordinary achievement and we are extremely proud of Dustin and Conner," said Gary Mathews, Superintendent for Newton County Schools.
"Through their hard work, they have earned national recognition for themselves and our school system. I commend them for their commitment to the FBLA program and I'm sure we can expect even greater accomplishments from them in the future. They most definitely exemplify our motto of ‘Spirit, Pride and Excellence.'"