Saugerties students honored for PSA videos targeting dating violence

County Executive Mike Hein with the Saugerties winners

County Executive Mike Hein with the Saugerties winners

Two Saugerties High School (SHS) juniors were honored by Ulster County recently for their efforts to fight teen dating violence through the power of video.

Ulster County Executive Michael Hein and representatives of the county’s Inter-Agency Domestic Violence Council were on hand at SHS on March 19 to recognize students Kelsey Gaulin and Daniel Douglas for the public service announcements they created as part of the first-ever countywide contest aimed at teen dating violence. Kelsey and Daniel won second and third place, respectively, with first place going to Ellenville High School juniors Edgar Saravia and Vinny Mele.

Kelsey’s second place video was a short but powerful film depicting a young woman repeatedly being abused by her boyfriend and being given gifts as an apology. Kelsey said her inspiration came from the idea that an abuser’s gift is never just a gift, but always has consequences attached.

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Saugerties Chief of Police Joseph Sinagra, who has responded to many domestic violence incidents in his career, told Kelsey that her video, which brought tears to many viewers’ eyes, “hits home more so than you can ever imagine.”

Daniel was awarded third place for a video that used a series of silent slides with pictures and text to highlight negative words and ideas commonly used by abusers to describe women. Daniel said the idea for the video came from his awareness of how often the negative words are used, despite the fact that the “meaning behind them is terrible.”

Both Kelsey and Daniel are students in Scott Wickham’s Computer Video Production II (CVP II) class at SHS. Wickham, a veteran teacher of more than 20 years, made participation in the county video contest an assignment for the CVP II students and an optional creative project for his CVP I class. Many of Wickham’s students aspire to careers in film production and have been accepted by prestigious college film programs at Ithaca College and Syracuse University.

“When I assigned this, I had no idea it was going to end up being this big,” Wickham told the students. “I’m blown away by what you guys do, and I’m glad people recognized how good you are.”

Hein called the students’ videos “extraordinary,” thanked them for using their skills to engage in the fight against dating violence, and reminded them that their work can be a way of not only educating themselves, but truly helping other people as well.

“We’ve got a lot of talented young people here,” Hein said. “They’re amazing.”

Superintendent Seth Turner noted that the students’ videos put the spotlight on an important topic that many people nonetheless find difficult to speak about. “I’m proud that my students were part of this wonderful endeavor,” he said.

Sinagra also expressed his admiration for the students, saying, “I’m proud to be the police chief who represents Saugerties High School.”