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Eastside duo earns national prize for texting, driving video

Eastside High School seniors Dustin Gentis, and Conner Haler recently won second place in the nation in the Digital Video Production category at the recent National FBLA Competition in San Antonio, Tex.

Eastside High School seniors Dustin Gentis, and Conner Haler recently won second place in the nation in the Digital Video Production category at the recent National FBLA Competition in San Antonio, Tex.

COVINGTON -- Realizing the dangers and consequences of texting and driving earned two Eastside High School seniors a national award.

Originally state champions in this year's FBLA competition, Dustin Gentis and Conner Haler took home second place honors in the Digital Video Production category at the recent national FBLA competition in San Antonio, Tex.

"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."

As part of the competition, the two created a Public Service Announcement video, which can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RK2gdm4yE5s&feature=plcp.

It features a teenage boy at a child's gravesite and later being taken to jail after a texting and driving accident. It also lists some statistics.

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."

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.

The two students scripted, filmed and edited the video as part of the project. The Covington Police Department assisted in the film.

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," Haler said.

"We really didn't know what to expect," Gentis added.

In addition to the video itself, the students were scored on their presentation to the judges.

"We had to make a presentation in front of the judges," Gentis said. "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."

Haler added that there was also a three-minute Question and Answer round during which the judges asked questions about the project.

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.

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.

The duo had to wait three more days until an awards ceremony to find out they won. In the end, a team from Alabama took first-place honors.

"It supports the idea that we worked hard and tried to create something that was quality and effective," Gentis said.

The two now speak to new teenage drivers at the New London Driving School about the dangers of texting and driving.

"Winning second place in the nation is an extraordinary achievement and we are extremely proud of Dustin and Conner," said Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews. "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.'"