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article imageWhite House hosts student film festival

By Angela Atkinson     Mar 3, 2014 in Entertainment
This past Friday, the White House hosted its first-ever student film festival, recognizing nearly 2,500 films made by elementary and high school students across the country.
President Barack Obama joined in the ceremony, which featured short videos on the role technology plays in kids' education.
"Today the Oscar goes to all of you because, among all the incredible videos we received, yours stood out," said Obama. "Like all great movies, yours do something special. They tell a story, they help us understand, in this case, the amazing things that are going on in classrooms and how technology is empowering our students and broadening their imaginations, challenging them to dream bigger and reach further."
Corporate Pledges
A total of 16 films were shown. The videos were limited to a maximum of three minutes.
The president held the ceremony at a time when his administration is asking corporate America and Congress to support placing high-speed Internet in every classroom by 2018 -- a program called ConnectEd.
At the festival, he announced $400 million in new pledges, including donations from software companies Adobe and Prezi.
Earlier this year, $750 million in commitments were announced from Apple, Verizon, Microsoft and other companies. So far, more than $1 billion in cash and goods have been committed to ConnectEd.
Student Film Submissions
"The Academy Awards are not until Sunday, but, as you can see, we've brought the Oscars to the White House a little bit early," Obama said. "We've got the red carpet, we've got the big screens. ... The only difference is nobody asks what you're wearing."
Christopher Bennett, a business instructor at Computer Systems Institute, says that students often struggle through school because of a variety of challenges, including missing class if they're from a single-parent home. Web-based innovation and learning programs could help kids from challenging environments.
"We had some really bright single parents who would sometimes miss class due to their child care arrangements falling through, or just from the plain lack of a responsible adult they could trust with their children until the end of their school day," said Bennett recently on his CSI blog.
"When a student misses class due to child care complications, it affects not only their relationships on campus, the absence affects their academics as well."
Each video was viewed multiple times by an "academy" of judges that included White House officials.
Sixteen were named "official selections" — no winners were declared — for the screening that was held in collaboration with the American Film Institute. The films were grouped into four categories — Young Visionaries, Future Innovators, World of Tomorrow and Building Bridges — and were presented by actor Kal Penn, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye the Science Guy and AFI President and CEO Bob Gazzale. Late-night comedian Conan O'Brien addressed the gathering by video.
The filmmakers range in age from elementary to high school and come from 12 states and the District of Columbia.
Seventeen-year-old Shelly Ortiz, of Phoenix, who introduced Obama at the festival, said she became interested in filmmaking after she started at the Metropolitan Arts Institute in the eighth grade. In her film, "Technology, Documentary, My Dad and Me," she talks about how technology helped her discover her passion to be a filmmaker and use her skills to tell the stories of people she cares about.
"Without the technology given to me, I would never have been able to develop the relationship with my father that I have now," Shelly said in the film. "Some people think technology alienates you from others. But the truth is that depends on how you use it."
No gold-toned statuettes were handed out but, along with the White House recognition, the finalists will be given an exclusive look at the first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a new TV series by Fox and the National Geographic Channel on the importance of science, technology, engineering and math that is set to premiere on March 9.
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