Senior’s PSA wins $1,000, first place in American Lung Association contest

Senior Leah Takes’ love for creating cinematography recently culminated in $1,600 of validation. 

In her 21st century literacy class in spring 2021, English teacher Brian Winkel encouraged all students to create a PSA to illustrate the dangers of radon gas for the American Lung Association, which sponsors an annual video PSA contest at the state level. Radon gas is detrimental to a person’s health and can lead to death from lung cancer in the long term, so the PSA videos in the contest encourage others to test their homes for radon gas.
“At first, it was just an assignment, but he suggested submitting our PSAs into the state-wide competition, and I decided I might as well give it a shot,” Takes said.

Because Takes created the video during the pandemic, options were limited on the resources she could use to create the video, so it was time to be creative. “I knew I had to use what I had in my home to create the video, and that got me thinking about using a home and basement scene and my dog as a way to tell a story. I knew I wanted my PSA to have no voice-over and tell a story with a beginning, middle and end because after watching previous contestants’ examples, I had seen that a lot of people tend to go with scene montages with voice-overs, and I wanted my PSA to stand out from the others,” Takes said. 

By the end of the semester in that class, Takes learned that her PSA had captured first place for all students who entered in Iowa. This honor earned her $600, but it turns out this was just the beginning of the accolades her PSA story would receive.

“After winning that competition, my PSA was automatically submitted into the nationwide competition without me knowing, and I received an email stating that I had won first place in the nation,” Takes said.

The first place national finish was announced in February and tacked another $1,000 onto Takes’ total for doing her homework in Winkel’s class.

“I’m so happy for Leah and her efforts—happy that she was able to follow her multimedia storytelling bliss, happy that her video will be used to save lives nationwide and happy that even in the challenges of taking a class online during COVID, she resiliently persisted. She’s exactly the citizen we all need.” 

Takes’ award-winning video is linked below:

If You Wait, It’s Too Late – Radon PSA by Leah Takes

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