Student heroin video picked

Avonworth students Riley Greenwood, Austin Sandrus, Katy Carlson and Emily Ferketic, following a reception this past Wednesday at William Pitt Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus where the filmmakers were honored for their anti-heroin video. Photo by Tom Steiner for The Citizen

It’s common knowledge that heroin addiction claims hundreds of lives every day, being an equal opportunity killer of all ages and all socioeconomic groups. Some newscasters speak of the epidemic almost as casually as they report the weather, but students from area high schools decided to take a stronger approach to the problem, hoping to expose the dangers of opioid and heroin addiction.

Sponsored by the F.B.I., the Heroin Outreach Prevention and Education -- HOPE -- program invited students in grades 9-12 to create videos, three minutes maximum time length, with the goal being that a more dramatic approach might provide an effective tool in making people think before they use.

Area students responded by submitting 38 entries to the HOPE invitation.

An Avonworth team of four students in Michelle George’s first semester health classes -- Katie Carlson, Emily Ferketic, Riley Greenwood and Austin Sandrus -- put their creative talents to work, producing a video bluntly titled, “I Am Heroin,” in which the insidious drug speaks the story of how it creeps into the life of a suburban high school cheerleader who suffered a serious injury and then became addicted to painkillers, eventually succumbing to the heroin “character” who concludes the video by saying, “An injury took away your dreams. I took away your life.”

Each of the students took on specific duties and roles: Katie developed the concept and filmed and edited, assisted by Emily; Riley played the part of the cheerleader who has everything going for her until she fractures her leg, ending her dream of a college scholarship. And Austin provided the ominous voice-over of the unseen character of heroin.

Portraying heroin through a voice created what Katie describes as “a metaphorical representation of how heroin can take over your life.”

Grim statistics used in other entries are not used in the Avonworth production. “Ours is less factual; it is more creative, instead,” Katie said.

“It’s very dramatic,” Riley added.

The filmmakers were honored at a reception this past Wednesday at William Pitt Hall on the University of Pittsburgh campus, where trophies and cash prizes were presented to the first, second and third-place winners -- Freedom, South Fayette and Avonworth high schools -- as rewards provided through the FBI’s Pittsburgh Citizens Academy Alumni Association. Taking third place among judges and third place in viewer response -- the number of “likes” tallied from on-line viewers -- earned the Avonworth filmmakers two trophies and $266 in cash awards.

Katie said that the team worked well together and filmed much of the video in class, having a really good time while they did. “Since I did a lot of editing outside of class, I showed them what I had finished and got feedback, and we did some re-filming. Everyone was very cooperative and willing to work on the project, despite the difficulty of filming such a serious matter. Emily and I came up with the script and the idea, filmed it all during health class and then I edited it all over a span of three weeks.”

No surprise that Katie plans a college double major in computer science and special effects, a branch of film production. “I love film production, but my true passion is for the post-production magic that brings it all together and I really want to do that for a living.”

Speaking for Emily and Riley, Austin summed up Katie’s contribution to their winning video. “She’s the glue of our group. Without her, we wouldn’t be here.”

The video may be viewed by visiting