Hannah is a 16-year-old Junior at Cedar Hill High School. She pursues her academic goals aggressively and currently boasts a #2 ranking in her class with rigorous Advanced Placement courses. She is actively involved in National Honor Society and National Society of High School Scholars. Outside of academics, Hannah spends her time perfecting her craft in dance and theater arts. She is currently Junior Lieutenant for the award-winning Cedar Hill Highsteppers drill team and also trains and performs with NG Professional Dance Company. Her most notable accomplishments are dancing with the American Drill Select Team to Osaka, Japan to showcase for the international Drill team competition. She also models professionally for Rebel Athletics! Hannah is also a very responsible big sister in a military family of 5 siblings. With her dad typically deployed, she helps her mom with her 3 younger siblings with her big sister studying performing arts in her sophomore year at AMDA LA college. Hannah is so excited to be honored with this award and looks forward to continuing her pursuit of becoming an entertainer in the film, dance and arts industry!
More widely known as Jake the Signer on the internet, Jacob VanDerwerken is a sign language innovator focused on sharing goodness through his hands. Over the past few years, Jacob has created and shared videos in sign language on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram which have reached millions of people all around the world.
Jacob was raised in Tooele, Utah. After graduating high school, he served a two-year volunteer mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in southern Arizona. Jacob is currently attending Brigham Young University with his wife Emily. He is an active participant and leader in the BYU Men’s Chorus, which is the largest male collegiate choir in the nation. Jacob is studying Advertising with a minor in Family Life and an emphasis in American Sign Language.
Kevin McCraney, 28, from Seattle, Washington. Kevin has experimented with narrative and media since he was young. Ever the consummate creator, he gained experience working with video and music by producing material for school projects and his personal travel blog. After traveling the world and documenting his adventures, he is currently attending the MS in Information Program at the University of Washington. In the future, he hopes to work in government, advocating for laws that embolden the ethical production and use of technology.
Wesley Castillo is a 17 year old student living in Inwood, WV. He is currently on his senior year at Musselman High School. In addition to his regular classes, he attends a program at James Rumsey Technical Institute where he studies Web Development & Gaming. Outside of his classes he likes to record videos, play on his Xbox, & serve at his church. Wesley also enjoys watching political debates and commentaries and considers Civics to be his favorite non-technical class.
Natalie Cuzmenco, 19, is from Charlotte, North Carolina and is a sophomore at Elon University. There, she is an Odyssey Scholar, a member of Sigma Kappa sorority, and is in the process of founding a chapter of Young Americans for Liberty. She is majoring in Economics and minoring in Political Science and Spanish. She realized her passion for politics and the Constitution during the 2008 election.
Best High School Short Film: Spencer Kolssak, 15, is a homeschooled sophomore who lives in Winnetka, Illinois with his mom, dad, and three brothers. Spencer is actively involved in his Boy Scout troop, writes science fiction, and loves to make films. He also has a new interest in speech and debate. He enjoys studying the history of America and God’s role in the founding of this nation.
Kenthia Farmer, 19, Best College Short Film Winner, is a sophomore from Memphis, TN. Her parents are Kenneth and Cynthia Farmer. Growing up in Memphis allowed her to be introduced, consistently, to so much history: from music to civil rights. Kenthia loves retelling history in various and creative ways using her artistic skills she acquired from her performing arts high school, Overton High. She currently attends the University of Miami. There, she studies business in hopes to become a successful entrepreneur upon graduation. Kenthia also minors in motion pictures.
Chasity Cagle, 17, Best High School Short Film Winner, is a native of Valdosta, Georgia. She attends Lowndes High School and presides over the SkillsUSA chapter where she competes in video production. Chasity is also involved in the community through Moody Air Force Base Youth Programs, a center for military teens. She hopes to become a speech pathologist and continue her video editing skills in college.
Colton Hinderliter, 16, Best High School Short Film Winner, lives in Marietta, Georgia and attends Keystone National Online High School. He is active in the arts of all sorts, from performing on stage to writing screenplays and poetry. He is an intern at the historic Earl Smith Strand Theatre working in arts administration. He also volunteers his time at his old elementary and middle schools’ drama clubs. Colton is very happy to combine his love of history and filmmaking in his first film.
Gayle Poole, Best Short Film Winner, Adult Category, was born in Houston, Texas. Gayle is the mom to four adult children and the Mamie to three wonderful grandkids. She works with the primary children’s organization in her church and is taking sign language classes at the local junior college. She loves reading history, doing photo collage art, gardening, and dancing with her husband of 34 years. She is a happy Texan and an appreciative American!
Nathan Poole, 25, Best Short Film Winner, Adult Category, is studying biology at the University of Texas at Tyler. He plans on studying genetics and then ultimately attending medical school. He is participating in a study of turtle and leech relationships, and is beginning to conduct a research project on salamander regeneration. He also spends time shadowing physicians in preparation for future schooling. He is involved in the community through church service projects and volunteering at the local zoo. He and his new wife teach a youth Sunday School class together. They enjoy traveling, camping, and enjoying the outdoors any chance they get.
Amanda Tesarek, 19, Best College Short Film Winner, is from Superior, Wisconsin, and attends Columbia University in New York City. She is currently a sophomore, and plans to pursue a double major in biochemistry and political science and a minor in Arabic language. Her extracurricular activities have included student government, newspaper, and improvisational comedy. Amanda was especially inspired to enter this contest after attending the American Legion Auxiliary’s Girls State and Girls Nation programs, which taught her the importance of patriotism and appreciating those who serve in the armed forces.
Josef Junek, (pronounced: YOU-nek), 15, Best High School Short Film Winner, currently lives in Rosenberg, Texas, U.S.A., North America, Planet Earth, with his parents, three sisters, one brother, numerous pets, and the occasional door-to-door vacuum salesman. He is home-schooled, which allows him and his brother plenty of time to experiment with making other short films. In addition to being a filmmaker, Josef is also a professional clown, unprofessional cartoonist, and has written one unpublished novel. He hopes to become a professional filmmaker someday, though would prefer not to work on anymore projects which require him to stand upside-down in a trashcan.
Cambria Magnuson, 19, Best College Short Film Winner, is from Fort Collins, Colorado. She discovered her passion for videography in her junior year video production class taught by Ron Clark at Rocky Mountain High School. She has used her skills to shoot weddings, sporting events and other miscellaneous projects. In addition to her passion for videography, Cambria also has a passion for running. Currently, she attends Colorado Christian University where she runs track and cross-country and is pursuing a degree in Secondary Education with an emphasis in history.
Laney Kraus-Taddeo, 17, Best High School Short Film Winner, lives in Park Ridge, Illinois, and is currently a senior at Maine South High School. She has worked as a professional actress since the age of nine, appearing in both live theater productions and short films. In high school she discovered a love of video and film production and has written, conceptualized, shot, directed and edited numerous short films, and has also directed live sports broadcasts and performing arts presentations. Proud to be this year’s short film winner, Laney is also an award-winning writer and editor with her high school newspaper, is the Boys Varsity Basketball video coordinator, and is active in her community. She will be attending college in the Fall of 2015 and plans on pursuing a double major in film production and theater
Zuriel Ferguson, 22, from Richmond, Virginia. Ever since Zuriel was a child he has been inspired to create films and tell stories. In 2011, he began to take video production and cinematography very serious by working with the Comcast Public Broadcasting organization in Richmond, VA as one of the producer/technicians while beginning to work in the freelance space for various local entities, and even journalism; taking his passion and skills to the United Nations in New York and to Costa Rica. He is currently attending ECPI College of Technology where he is pursuing a degree in the Computer and Information Science field.
Katie Crosby – Best High School Short Film Short Film Title: “Forthcoming Life in America” Minnesota Katie Crosby, 15, Winner of High School Short Film Contest, is from Ramsey, Minnesota. She attends PACT Charter School and is a sophomore. Some of Katie’s passions include photography and theatre. She discovered her love for theatre through her school’s performing arts program her freshman year. Her talents for acting have contributed in many productions such as Cheaper by the Dozen, the Frog Princess, and Once Upon a Shoe. Katie has two lab-pit bull mixes named Jack and Klue. Dogs have always been a part of her family and they always will be. Her personality is one of a kind. Katie is outgoing, creative, and has a drive for her passions. Katie is grateful for all of her family and friend’s support in pursuing her love for theatre and could not do it without them.
Ocipare McKinley is a 45 year old wife, mother, performer and entrepreneur. Most people affectionately call her Key; she is originally from Hartford, Connecticut and she now resides in Columbus, Ohio. Key graduated with honors from the Ohio Center of Broadcasting with her diploma in Radio and Television Broadcasting and she is matriculating at Franklin University where she is going for her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Being a mother/caregiver of a young adult with autism, Key hopes to inspire other adults to complete their education at all costs. “As a woman, life sometimes catches us putting a greater emphasis on our families and very little care for ourselves… now that my daughter is an adult, this is the year where I get to do for myself and completing my undergrad education was first on my bucket list.”
Since 2004, Matt Fitzgibbons has been writing non-partisan music that celebrates America’s founding principles. His goal is to inspire people to think, learn and talk about individual liberty.
Fitzgibbons has released four albums which have received many honors including two ASCAPlus awards, a song featured in a documentary on the Right to Bear Arms, a second place award in an Irish songwriting contest, and an Honorable mention in the 2016 SongDoor International Songwriting Competition, among others. With his music, videos, writing and hundreds of interviews across the country and abroad, Fitzgibbons has reached millions of people with his positive message. For more information, music, videos, show dates and booking, Matt Fitzgibbons’ website is PatriotMusic.com