UM students Julia Hecht and Julie Erhardt tied for first place in the Red Ribbon Week National Campus Video Public Service Announcement contest. The duo won $3,000 to support UM’s drug education and prevention efforts, the ability to attend the Drug Enforcement Administration’s strategies conference and a plaque commemorating their achievements.
“We got the opportunity to do something cool for our campus and at the same time, share a message that is important to all of us,” Erhardt said.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Red Ribbon Week National Campus Video PSA contest, an annual competition in honor of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, who was murdered while working to end drug trafficking to the United States.
The 2021 submission was the first year that UM students took part in the competition. The duo worked with Whitney O’Regan, the assistant dean of students and director of the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education.
This year also marks the first year that the DEA and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, who run the contest, have awarded two schools the top prize, with UM and the North Dakota State College of Science tying for first.
Hecht said that her strong background in broadcast journalism aided in the making of the video.
“I’m trained in camera angles, editing and showing off the content in a way that is interesting to the eye,” said Hecht, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.
“Julie drew rough sketches for the storyboard, which was the backbone of the video, and from that, I went out and got the shots. Post-production, Julie put the storyboard together,” she continued.
Erhardt said that her and Hecht have had previous success as a directorial duo.
“Julia and I filmed a YouTube dorm tour video of Eaton, and we got 60,000 views on it, so we realized that our videos can have a bigger reach than what we thought,” she said.
Erhardt said that after the Youtube video became popular, they decided to use their skills to film the PSA.
“We became a lot more selective about the message we were putting out and at the same time, became more confident that we could put out interesting, appealing videos,” she said.
Historically, the greater Miami area has been a victim of drug trafficking, perpetuated by factors such as wealth inequality, insufficient resources and a lack of awareness. Erhardt said the group primarily wanted to showcase the resources that UM offers to anyone seeking help through their video.
“It’s not about getting you in trouble or getting you sanctioned, it’s about how substance abuse can impact your life negatively,” she said.
Currently, UM offers numerous different events and programs to reduce and ultimately eliminate substance abuse. In addition to the mandatory Everfi courses that teach students about alcohol and drug use, the Sandler Center offers weekly programs that involve paid staff teaching students about substance awareness and usage. These programs include interactive sessions that range from talks on cannabis to alcohol during parties. During COVID, the Sandler Center has adapted by going online to limit the spread of the virus while educating students on an important topic.
“If you see a friend or someone you know struggling with addiction, it is your place to help out in any way, whether that be a wellness checkup at ‘Canes Care for ‘Canes or sitting down and talking to them about it,” Erhardt said.
Watch the group’s video here: #DEACampus PSA Contest Winner: University of Miami – YouTube