Madison, West Hartford, Willimantic Top DMV’s Teen Driving Video Contest

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A team of teens from Daniel Hand High School in Madison won the sixth annual state Department of Motor Vehicles’ teen safe driving video contest.

Second place went to a team from William H. Hall High School in West Hartford; a team at Arts at the Capitol Theater in Willimantic placed third; a Simsbury High team placed fourth and East Lyme High School place fifth.

The contest asks a team of teens to develop a 25-second public service announcement, which is then posted on YouTube. The theme this year was distracted driving, such as texting while driving.

“The theme — Teen Drivers, Put Your Brakes on Distractions — produces a direct call to action and the clear message that’s crucial in peer-to-peer communication,” DMV Commissioner Melody A. Currey said in a statement.

The contest drew entries from 137 different student teams involving 549 students across Connecticut from 46 different high schools.

Entries were judged by a panel of more than 10 people, which included Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen, Travelers executives, officials at the state Department of Motor Vehicles and teen advisers.

Winning schools share $15,000 in cash prizes provided by The Travelers Cos., which is a co-sponsor of the event and hosted a ceremony Monday at the company’s Claim U facility in Windsor. In addition to other prizes for the top 10 videos, East Hartford High School won the DMV teen safe driving multi-cultural award and Hall High in West Hartford won the Travelers Challenge for getting the most YouTube views on the DMV’s teen-safe-driving YouTube channel.

“Our hope is that the videos and their strong messages continue the dialogue about how we all play a part in keeping our teen drivers safe,” Travelers Vice Chair Doreen Spadorcia said in a statement.

The event has grown since the first year:

2009 — 203 students from 28 high schools

2010 — 350 students from 34 high schools

2011 —571 students from 43 high schools

2012 — 352 students from 25 high schools

2013 — 478 students from 32 high schools

2014 — 549 students from 46 high schools

The following are the top-prize ranking videos based on judges’ review of overall impact, originality and cinematic style:

• First place — Scott Sweitzer, Tommy Durkin, Stefan Pelletier, Seamus Reilly, Zach Serio, Ben Swimmer and Malcolm Watts of Daniel Hand High School in Madison.

• Second place – Ethan Freund, Ian Blakelock and Thomas Doelger of William H. Hall High School in West Hartford.

• Third place — Philip Chovnick, Graham Frassinelli, David Nilson, Karlyle Palmer and Danielle Wilson of Arts at the Capitol Theater in Willimantic.

• Fourth place — Emilee Buytkins, Douglas Barnard, Samantha Dowd and Kelly McAlpine of Simsbury High School.

• Fifth place — Zachary Kosakowski, Jay Alpert and Daniel Rose of East Lyme High School.

Here are the other five teams that round out the top 10 finalist videos.

• Arts at the Capitol Theater – Tyler Liam Mainville, Emily Chromik, Elizabeth Keefe, Eric Long and Gage Stone-Baker.

• Daniel Hand High School in Madison — Reilly Thornbury, Emerson Butler, Carter Chapman, Joel Griffin, Nicole Kronauer, Maggie Pollard and Tanner Rowell.

• Darien High School — Alana McKay, Izzy Patten, Margaret Riegel and Hannah Solus.

• Waterbury Arts Magnet School — Molly Gamache, Zachary Carter, Bailey Cummings, Cara Gurein and Sarah Shatas.

• William H. Hall High School — Jake Gershon, Armen Danielian, Nicholas Doelger, Sean Farley, Michael Li and Elena Pevar.

About Matthew Sturdevant

Full-time staff journalist at The Hartford Courant and magazine freelancer with a master's degree in writing from Dartmouth. My work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, Taiwan News, The Baltimore Sun and many other news sources. My blog has been referenced by, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Georgetown Law Library and a number of organizations in healthcare and business. Sturdevant’s blog is "a well-written wealth of ideas," said The Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, (, May 18, 2011). I have experience writing for newspapers, magazines, Web sites and blogs as well as shooting and editing video. I made regular appearances on news-talk radio and on the NBC affiliate station in Corpus Christi, Texas. I made occasional appearances on the Fox affiliate in Connecticut promoting Hartford Courant articles.

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