Updated: FHS Students Win Awards At LWV ‘Y Vote’ Essay And Video Competition

Franklin High School students Brandon Torres, Terrance Leon George, Natasha Ishaq and Brandon Fitzgerald, left to right, took home awards Oct. 26 at the inaugural League of Women Voters Greater New Brunswick Area Chapter “Y Vote” essay and video competition awards ceremony.

NEW BRUNSWICK – Several Franklin High School students took home awards Oct. 26 at the inaugural “Y Vote Essay and Video contest awards ceremony, held at the Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University.

One student received an Honorable Mention for her essay, while a team of students won 3rd Place in the video competition of the event, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters’ Greater New Brunswick Area chapter.

The contest looked for entries that were “creative, effective and inspirational” and which focused on issues and personal experienced, according to a press release about the contest.

High school students in Somerset and Middlesex counties were eligible. A total of 77 essays and 14 videos were submitted.

The team of Brandon Fitzgerald, Terrance Leon George, Brandon Torres, Tyriana Taylor and Jeffrey Grant took the 3rd Place award for their video, which Fitzgerald said was shot in one day.

The video focused on the stories of four students, each of whom said they believed a personal issue they described could be solved by voting.

“We wanted to get the message out of why you should vote,” Fitzgerald said. “We were trying to push a message.”

“I feel that the only way to push a message is to make it a little touching so people can feel ad understand what’s going on,” he said. “We chose four situations that are going on right now and then we put it into four of the students.”

“Voting is crucial, and we wanted to put a lot of emotion to our video, a lot of emotion and a lot of heart,” George said. “I believe we did an excellent job.”

“It’s not just a video, it’s a strong message behind it,” Torres said. “On top of that, we got to participate in the competition and learn new experiences.”

The team also works together in the FHS Aspects After Hours Program, run by Michael Pinnix, the school’s aspects of video teacher. Pinnix was on hand to see how his students did.

“When they came to me and said they wanted to participate I said OK, think about voting and how it impacts young people, that’s who your audience is,” he said. “When you’re 18 years old, you can vote, what are your concerns? What are you all passionate about, and put that in the video.”

“I tell them it doesn’t matter if you win, it matters if your art gets in and affects people,” he said. “Our program produces kids, they love the arts, but they also use the arts to change people’s lives. And I think that’s what it’s about.”

Natasha Ishaq took home an honorable mention for her essay.

Ishaq said she has an interest in politics and government, “simply because I was looking at how you’re able to affect the average person on a daily basis.”

“So to kind of have been able to receive recognition for the essay I wrote, it kind of shows that you don’t have to be a certain age to be recognized,” she said. “I’m very grateful that they gave me an award, that essay really did mean a lot to me. I genuinely was trying to express my own individual passions through it and I hope that came across.”

The evening’s keynote speaker was state Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D-16) whose theme was “every vote counts.”

Zwicker told of his first win in 2015, where he beat the incumbent Republican by 78 votes out of 34,000 cast, becoming the first Democrat to win a legislative seat in that district.

“I stand here because every vote counts,” he said. “What you’re doing with your contest, what you’re doing outside of this room, is so critically important and in the end I stand here very optimistic knowing  that we had 77 essays and 14 videos.”

“We are seeing a wave of activism from young people that we have not seen in decades,” he said. “It’s your country, you’re going to push us out of the way. I just want to say thank-you for what you’re doing, because it really matters.”


Here is Natasha Ishaq’s essay:

“Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job”. These words were spoken by high school student and gun control activist Emma Gonzalez. She spoke these words to an American audience that gathered at the nation’s capital, where citizens were asked to step forth and fight alongside her and her peers in a battle for self-defense and protection that has become all too much political. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School often found themselves confronting politicians and lawmakers in an attempt to be heard and convince the higher-ups of the country to address the problem of gun control.

As these students have learned, trying to communicate with law makers and representatives is a challenging feat. Nevertheless, these students, as well as those who have joined their fight, continue to exercise their right to have a say in matters that are not only political, but societal and personal as well. It is for this reason why young people should vote in the Congressional Election and other future elections.

The United States is a Constitutional Republic in which government officials and representatives are elected by the people themselves. It is through democracy that the republic of the United States stands. The nation is reliant on federal and local political and governmental leaders taking charge with the consent of the governed. Therefore, it is the responsibility of Americans to vote–even the young adults.

The right to vote was fought for in the history of this nation. The defeat of the Jim Crow Laws and the triumph of Women’s Suffrage is a testament to this. As Americans, we hold the power to elect our Congress men and women, senators and representatives. We hold the power to elect our mayors and state governors. We, as Americans, hold the power to elect our president.

Your vote is a symbol of your respect and trust for someone you believe is qualified to lead, as well as represent your voice. Those leaders and representatives are the ones who make the choices that affect you as an American, but more importantly, you as an individual. There actions may cause you to give up your home to the government, cause your school to be shut down, or cause your loved one or yourself to lose a job.

We must also realize that there is no reason for us to criticize those who are in power when we are the ones who elect them. One vote is equivalent to one voice that matters, as one is standing up for their lives and their country. The voter takes part in the government process. You, as a voter, have a say n who leads your state and country. It is your right, responsibility and duty to “fight for your life” and the life of this nation. After all, one vote can be the difference between a failure and success.


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