It only took a chalkboard, camera, computer and four hours to earn $1,000.
In September, IntelliVOL, a web-based tracking and reporting system for community service hours, sponsored a scholarship contest for high school students. Western Alamance High School junior Eric Lewis took home first prize for his two-minute chalkboard animation.
“I thought I’d have a good chance of getting at least one of the three prizes but I wasn’t sure,” Lewis said. “It was a good feeling. I’ve won other things before, it makes me happy for the rest of the day.”
Without any formal video editing instruction, Lewis has a lot to be proud of.
“When I first got a camera five years ago I recorded myself doing stupid stuff like playing with fire,” he said. “I just edited it from there and learned what I know along the way.”
Despite this unconventional education, Lewis’s video impressed IntelliVOL President and CEO Michele Pitman.
“Eric’s chalkboard drawing message was simple and effective,” Pitman said. “The winning videos communicated the importance of community service through drawings, personal experiences, music and text. They were all very creative.”
Two other students were awarded scholarships for their entries and another received an honorable mention. Pitman said all the entries were impressive.
“Selecting the winners was a difficult task because there were so many that were so great,” she said. “Ultimately, each of the winners exhibited a different angle on community service yet they all communicated a message of the benefits of taking action in the community to make a positive difference in the lives of those around them and to strengthen the community that the live in.”
The x2VOL video contest was not the first scholarship Lewis grabbed. During his sophomore year, he realized the Internet had thousands of opportunities for winning prize money.
“I’ve placed in for our five contests and I’ve only won twice,” Lewis said. “But I’ve entered 30 or 40 contests in the past year.”
Lewis has won more than $3,500 in prize money from organizations such as DonorsChoose.org and RevereAmerica.org. He decided to invest his money in buying equipment to continue making videos.
“The first camera I had was a Flip video camera, and I got that by selling Pokemon cards I had as a kid,” Lewis said. “I used it to enter a contest and I won, so with that I bought a computer, a camera and some other stuff. It was an investment to enter another contest to get an even better camera.”
With this new equipment, Lewis won another contest and put the prize money toward a new microphone. Although he considers these purchases useful for college, he will not be saving specifically for tuition yet.
“I’m waiting for the results of five contests right now,” he said. “There’s some that you can only spend the money on college, but the other ones I’m going to save for a car and a laptop, a few things that I’m trying to do before saving for college.”
Lewis’s goal is to save enough for half his tuition, so he can continue to earn scholarships and awards during his junior and senior years at university.
He hopes to attend Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., to pursue his interests in theater and video.
“I’m actually going there next week to visit for the first time,” Lewis said. “I’ve heard about it, and I’ve watched every single video they have on YouTube, like 400 videos this summer.”
Whatever he decides to study in school, Lewis expects to do great things. In his x2VOL scholarship submission, he emphasized the importance of community and cooperation. IntelliVOL hopes he will continue to value these ideals.
“We are very happy to provide Eric with a $1,000 scholarship to pursue his college education,” Pitman said. “Students like Eric understand that they can make a difference through service.”