Spotlight shines on Washington Township students
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Spotlight shines on Washington Township students

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WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP — Abbey Evans was nervous Wednesday morning as she got behind the wheel of her car to text and drive.

The Washington Township High School senior normally doesn't do that, she said. But she did it Wednesday morning for a camera crew creating a video warning of the dangers of texting and driving for Drive Safe Chicago.

Evans, 18, along with Paige Ruesch, 17, and Dustin Payne, 18, entered a contest before Christmas that solicited ideas for the public service announcement videos.

Greg Simms, economics teacher at Washington Township High School, told the students about the contest. Everyone who entered won two tickets to the Chicago Auto Show.

Out of more than 150 applicants, the three finalists all were from Washington Township High School.

Evans, Ruesch and Payne, all seniors, planned to spend Wednesday and Thursday shooting their videos.

This contest was for students 14 and older from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. The videos will be shown at the Chicago Auto Show. The public will decide the winning video, which will appear on television nationwide.

"This is so unbelievable that all the kids are from our school, and I teach all three in the same econ class," Simms said. "This is so great and we did this just as an extra thing to do and to learn how to write a commercial."

Director Alan Weiss and producer Marilou Yacoub, with Alan Weiss productions of Eastchester, N.Y., were on hand Wednesday to shoot the videos the students had created.

"It is so difficult to get this message across about texting and driving," Weiss said. "What better place to get the message than from peers. And it's great that all three finalists are from the same school."

Weiss and Yacoub shared performance tips with the students tips all morning.

"You need to project more and talk over each other ... just like you would when you are in the car with your friends talking," Weiss said. "The idea is to be enthusiastic in the car. Make it realistic."

Weiss told the students that they have to make the driving as realistic as possible and come as close to the other car as possible, without really hitting it.

"You have to make it look like an accident, but just be really really careful to not actually hit the oncoming car," Weiss said.

Evans admitted she was nervous about the shoot but was also happy to have her friends in the video, too.

Ruesch was glad to be producing a video.

"I was really excited when I found out that I was a finalist," Ruesch said. "That I'm in the top three is still growing on me."

Payne was looking forward to working with the camera crew from New York.

"I basically entered the contest just to get the free tickets to the auto show," Payne said. "When I saw Mr. Simms over Christmas break while I was working and he told me I was a finalist, I just couldn't' believe it. Now I'm really excited. I never thought I would be one of the top three."

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