Washburn twins earn film award

Five-minute documentary on public safety in Minneapolis earns honorable mention in national C-SPAN competition

By Tesha M. Christensen
Creating a five-minute documentary about public safety in Minneapolis was “eye-opening” for a pair of 18-year-old twins from Washburn High School.
“You’ve Dialed 911: The Future of Public Safety from Minneapolis,” by Hale residents Andrew Wesson and Jacob Wesson earned honorable mention in the national C-SPAN 20th annual StudentCam competition ‑ an exciting accomplishment during their senior year.
“My sons explored a very complex subject and frankly, it’s a subject that conjures up many emotions and strong opinions in people,” remarked their father, Matt Wesson. “Despite that, they presented their story and experience with the police ride-along and subsequent interviews in a clear and concise manner leaving the viewer with much to consider which, I think, was intentional and effective.”
“Part of the reason that I thought it was so well-done was because I could see the planning and thoughtfulness that went into creating such a potentially divisive piece. I was pleased that the story was told from several different angles and through different lenses to create a more holistic piece. That’s not easy to do when you are limited to five minutes,” observed their mother, Kristy Wesson.
“When I first realized we had won, I was incredibly excited,” recalled Jake. “It was quite the honor to have an opportunity to tell the world about the historic happenings in Minneapolis – let alone receive an award for it.”
“I learned at 7 a.m., and I was so happy. I couldn’t believe it really,” said Drew. “We were the only award winners from Minnesota. To be recognized among so many great students from all around the country was exciting and amazing.” 
C-SPAN is funded by America’s cable television companies, who also support StudentCam. In Minneapolis, C-SPAN is available locally through Comcast.
The annual StudentCam competition is sponsored by the C-SPAN Education Foundation. Videos were evaluated by a panel of educators and C-SPAN representatives based on the thoughtful examination of the competition’s theme, quality of expression, inclusion of varying sides of the documentary’s topic, and effective incorporation of C-SPAN programming.
“Comcast is excited to honor Andrew and Jacob in the 2024 StudentCam competition,” said Comcast Midwest Regional Senior Vice President Kalyn Hove. “We are proud to partner with C-SPAN to help provide a platform for students across the country to share their voice on the issues important to them as they work to be informed and active citizens. Congratulations!”
The 150 winning videos can be viewed at 
The twins had never worked on a documentary before, but had developed various videos for their school, including some for freshman orientation. They also help out with the school news production, the Washburn Weekly Webcast. A few years ago, they created school virtual tour videos for Field, Hale and Northrop.
“I really developed a passion for making videos – along with my brother – throughout high school, but we didn’t realize how far we could take it until this year,” said Jake. They gave a shout-out to Jean Zimmerman, who advises the school news production, as well as media center specialist John McCreary, and Global Politics teacher Patrick Scanlon. 
“I appreciate everyone who took the time to share their experiences for our project. I admire the important work being done in public safety amid many challenges,” remarked Jake.
When they began discussing what they wanted to do, the twins knew they wanted to go beyond the typical interview, while still maintaining opinions from different stakeholders. They wanted to incorporate a ride-along to show the topic firsthand. As they worked more on the documentary, they came across all the different moving parts and agencies that are involved. With their council member, Emily Koski (whose father was also a Minneapolis City Council member), they toured the Minneapolis Emergency Management Center and sat in during a 911 dispatch shift. They also did a ride-along with the Airport Fire Department.
“I’ve also been interested in the BCR teams, and I would commonly see their vans roaming around my neighborhood – but I really didn’t know what they did,” acknowledged Drew. “So when I saw this documentary opportunity come across, I thought it would be a great way for me to learn more about public safety in Minneapolis.” He also used some of his experiences for a high school class paper.
Jake handled much of the planning, while Drew did most of the filming and editing, using some of the school’s filming equipment. They did their first ride-along in December and wrapped things up in January. 
“What I found so interesting was that you could spend hours just looking into the changing face of public safety in Minneapolis,” said Jake, who has been interested in the realm of public safety since he was young. “The documentary we created only scratched the surface of what happens every day, and we spent 25-30 hours on it.”
“For me, the interviews and ride along were such great experiences. I learned so much from them and it was interesting hearing their perspectives and roles,” stated Drew.  “This experience opened my eyes to what is happening here in Minneapolis.”
Jake is proud to live in Minneapolis, and believes that documenting the changes happening in the city is vital to implementing effective change.
“I value the opportunity in general. I never thought, that as a teenager, I could get this close to what’s happening. You hear about it all the time on the news, but I had the chance to witness, firsthand, what was happening ’beyond the news.’ Developing your opinion by reading an article is one thing, but experiencing it in person can shift your perspective,” observed Jake. “It was truly eye opening.”
Kristy and Matt are proud of the effort their sons put into the documentary, and value what they learned while working on it.
“This experience has given them more confidence in the understanding that the youth voice is not only important, but crucial when it comes to shaping policies in our local and greater communities,” remarked Kristy. “It has opened their eyes to the world around them, that their viewpoints combined with action, can help to make real change. In addition, the experience has provided them with an opportunity to connect with leaders, raise their knowledge and visibility, and have the confidence to know that their voice and the voices of their peers matter.
Matt pointed out that this experience has elevated his son’s level of confidence in executing and completing a complex project and following strict guidelines in doing so. “I think this project has greatly prepared them for college and the rigor, attention to detail, and organizational skills required to succeed,” he said.
As Jake leaves high school, he plans to pursue a major in international relations, focusing on international and domestic security with the goal of a job in government. He intends to keep honing his skills in journalism and videography, as well. “It’s a perfect way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and explore what is important,” he remarked.
Drew is considering a career in news/public affairs or public safety field/emergency management/homeland security field.


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