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Maine DHHS announces winners of COVID-19 youth vaccination video contest

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On December 1, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in partnership with the Maine Department of Education, announced the winners of its youth COVID-19 vaccination video contest.

High school students Renée Morin, Olie Saywell, Hunter Roberts and Ian Kruger, who attend The New School in Kennebunk, were awarded first-place. Second-place went to Spencer Michalski, an 8th grade student who lives in Columbia and is home schooled. Natalie Waters, a 6th grade student who attends Lincoln Middle School in Portland, won third-place.

Under the contest rules, the school attended by students with the winning entry receive the prize money, which must be used on activities promoting students’ mental or physical health. The New School will receive $50,000 and Lincoln Middle School will receive $10,000.

The contest rules also stipulated that homeschooled students donate the money to a public-facing nonprofit that serves children. The second-place winner donated the $25,000 award to Downeast Audubon.

The prize money will be paid out from Maine DHHS’ Coronavirus Relief Funds, provided to the state by the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will promote the winning videos in public service announcements and on social media.

The contest was announced on November 3 and ran until November 22. According to a press release announcing the contest winners, DHHS reviewed over 50 submissions.

Asked whether the agency considered the contest a success, DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell said, “We received more than 50 entries in less than three weeks and in the first 23 hours since being posted on the Maine CDC Facebook page, the winning video received more than 24,000 views.”

Criteria for the contest included “originality and clarity of the message, consistency with public health information on youth vaccination, and potential to reach unvaccinated groups.”

DHHS did not return a quest for comment about who they considered unvaccinated groups, but the press release announcing the winners stated the contest encouraged students to “submit 30-second videos that they believed would encourage other children, along with their parents, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The winning video entries can be viewed here.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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