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Two seniors at St. Thomas More High School were awarded honorable mentions on Thursday for the documentary they shot and entered in a national student competition organized by C-SPAN.

Matthew McGillick and Spencer Lund were presented with certificates for their entry by a C-SPAN representative at an assembly held in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Rapid City.

"We're very honored because we know how many very talented people out there made videos," Lund said following the ceremony. "To be chosen as one of the few winners is very humbling."

More than 6,000 students in grades six through 12 took part in this year's StudentCam competition and submitted some 2,000 entries for consideration, said C-SPAN representative Ivette Lucero. A total of $100,000 in prize money was awarded to 340 winners nationwide, including McGillick and Lund.

Founded in 1979, C-SPAN — which stands for the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network — is a non-profit television network that broadcasts U.S. congressional proceedings and other programs about public policy.

Since 2006, the network's annual StudentCam competition challenges students to film a five- to six-minute documentary in a bid to promote civic engagement. Contestants this year were asked to answer the question, "What does it mean to be an American?"

For Lund and McGillick, the answer was "hope." Their video, titled "A Nation Built on Hope," focuses on the ideals of the Founding Fathers and the American colonies' fight for independence from the British Empire.

Interviews with staff at the Founding Fathers exhibit and South Dakota Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Oster are included in the short, which the two said they shot with their phones.

"It's a really great way to get in touch with people in the area," McGillick said.

McGillick and Lund both received ceremonial proclamations from Gov. Kristi Noem. Rapid City Councilmember Lisa Modrick also attended to present the two with a certificate from the city.

St. Thomas More students participated in the contest for a project in the school's Advanced Placement U.S. Government course. It is accompanied by a research paper addressing what is assigned in the school's AP Literature course.

Last year, three students from the school took third prize along with others across the country. AP Government teacher Tracey Freidel said the goal of the two projects is to involve students in their communities.

"The whole purpose of learning government is to have educated, well-rounded students who really understand how their government works," said Freidel.

C-SPAN's custom bus, which features touch screen consoles and televisions, visited the school as part of the ceremony. Once aboard, students had the opportunity to learn more about the network's history and programming.

They were also able to record their answers to this year's questions as part of the network's "Voices from the Road" project.

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