WINTER PARK, Fla. — What does it mean to be an American? That is the question C-SPAN posed to thousands of students across the country for their 2019 documentary competition.

  • Winter Park students win top prize at C-SPAN's StudentCam
  • They answered this question: What does it mean to be an American?
  • Students received total of $3,000 to share for their win
  • LINK: Watch the winning documentary here

Seven-thousand students entered C-SPAN's 'StudentCam,' producing more than 2,900 documentaries. It was stiff competition, which made Thursday’s celebration inside Winter Park High School’s media room so special.

From behind the camera, to in front of it, three Winter Park High School teens can now call themselves first-place winning documentarians. Justin Whittingham, Ella Grace Rodriguez, and Luke Sand answered the big question: “What does it mean to be an American?”

“Journalism is by no means native to the United States, but a free press was one of the fundamental elements that our nation was built on,” said Whittingham in his documentary.

The trio titled the film “Comfortably Numb: Honoring Americas Right to a Free Press.” Freedom of the Press being the answer to C-SPAN’s question, with a stress on accurate journalism.

“When we thought about what it meant to be American, we really thought about how we have press rights that other nations don’t, and we wanted to capitalize on that, and how it’s almost mistreated, or misunderstood,” said Sand, a Winter Park High School senior.

“I think we as Americans take a lot of things for granted, just because of the climate that we are surrounded (by), we are blessed with so much, so much,” said Rodriguez, a Winter Park High School junior.

Those are some of the reasons C-SPAN valued their documentary as well, but thousands of other people appreciated it too. Along with winning the top prize in the east region, they were also picked as the fan favorite.

The three students are humble, but all of them credit a good teacher for their success.

“I want to go to college to study film, and there is no way I would have the skills or the technique or the even the drive, the vision … for storytelling that I have without Mrs. Gerber and the amazing program here,” Whittingham said.

The three won’t be broken up either while school remains in session. They have already produced four other shorter documentaries and have plans to enter those in more competitions.

Winter Park High had several other students also receive honorable mentions and had the third place winner too.

Whittingham, Rodriguez, and Sand received a total of $3,000 to share for their win.