BASIS Peoria students Adell Ateshim and Shreya Satheesh

BASIS Peoria students Adell Ateshim and Shreya Satheesh produced the documentary “Affording to Live” for a C-SPAN competition.

BASIS Peoria students Adell Ateshim and Shreya Satheesh are planning to celebrate after receiving $250 for an honorable mention in C-SPAN’s national 2021 StudentCam competition. 

These winners are among 299 students from across the country winning $100,000.

C-SPAN, a public affairs TV network, in cooperation with cable television partners, asked middle and high school students to join the national conversation on the challenges the nation is facing with the theme: “Explore the issue you most want the president and new Congress to address in 2021.”

Submitting their “Affording to Live” documentary, the students outlined the cost of U.S. health care and inequality in the field, competing among 1,200 entries from 43 states.

A former classroom teacher, Pam McGorry of C-SPAN was one of the judges.

“(Ateshim and Satheesh) were very effective, and we really enjoyed watching their video,” McGorry said. “They did great research. They had good interviews with doctors that really helped explain their topic, and they discussed different programs. It was visually appealing. Their narration was good, and they wove it together to tell a good story.”

The duo reflected on why they chose the topic of health care. According to C-SPAN, 14.9% of the submissions were about health care. 

“I’m very interested in public policy,” Ateshim said. “I want to go into law, so I spend my personal time researching inequality in the system. I knew that health care was very topical for this year’s competition. We were looking for what makes health care inaccessible for minority groups and different socioeconomic groups.”

They tackled the financial aspect of individuals who may be suffering due to disparity.

“We found that a lot of health care inequality stems from how expensive it is,” Ateshim said. “It was saddening to think that someone can’t afford to get treatment or to live. That was a big motivator in choosing our topic this year.”

While C-SPAN is funded completed funded by America’s cable television companies, who also support StudentCam, the prize money stems from its education foundation. The students will split the prize, with plans to put the money into their education.

“I’ve been saving up for a drawing tablet because I want to get into digital art. That’s exciting,” Satheesh said. 

Ateshim and Satheesh said they felt the contest advanced their voices as minors.

“I am really glad C-SPAN does something like this and offers high school students a voice in their government because we can’t vote,” Ateshim said. “This is another way that we can get our voice out there. When we do well, people can hear us, and they broadcast our documentary on C-SPAN.”

Although honorable mention was an accomplishment, the girls said they are prepared for next year’s competition. 

“We still have a way to go with getting the honorable mention, but we are more capable to tell our narrative,” Ateshim said. 

“We are more capable to research public policy and just being more politically active citizens, which is what Shreya and I are interested in.”

The annual competition usually includes a new topic and new requirements every year that push students to address diverse perspectives on public policy and affairs. 

The 150 winning videos can be viewed at studentcam.org and are broadcast with attribution to C-SPAN.

“C-SPAN’s student competition is really connected with its mission, which is to provide public access to the political process and provide the public with different perspective on issues. Every year that we launch this competition, we are really looking to engage students,” McGorry said.