Winners of the 2020 World of 7 Billion International Student Video Contest Announced

Written by Isabelle Rios, Student Engagement Specialist | Published: August 31, 2020

Eighteen talented middle and high school students have taken a top spot in the 2019-2020 World of 7 Billion student video contest for their videos about the effects of human population growth on climate resiliency, economic opportunities, and water systems. The winners tackled topics ranging from microfinance and urban sanitation systems to climate justice and overfishing.

Students were challenged with educating viewers about their chosen topic and how it relates to human population growth. They were asked to include at least one idea for a sustainable solution. “These students showed a sophisticated grasp of some really complex issues, as well as innovative ideas,” said John Seager, President of Population Connection.

More than 5,000 students in grades 6-12, from 35 countries and 46 U.S. states and territories, participated in this year’s competition, which ran from September 2019 until the close of submissions in late February 2020. A panel of 41 judges—including college and high school educators, filmmakers, and topic experts—selected the winners.

“This is a great project for stimulating students’ research, writing, and video production skills on some of the biggest challenges facing the world. That’s why so many science and social studies teachers are including it in their lesson plans each year,” added Pam Wasserman, Population Connection Senior Vice President for Education.

Honorable Mentions, High School

Climate Migrants

Tripp Myers, Hunter Hamer, and Owen Kleis

Gilman School, Baltimore, Maryland

The Unjust Killer

Rana Duan

Dulles High School, Sugar Land, Texas

Take Action Against Wealth Inequality

Nyi Lin Htet Zin

Ayeyarwaddy International School, Mandalay, Myanmar

Urban Greenhouse Grocery Stores

Isabelle Job and Sophie Jeffery

Pingree School, Wenham, Massachusetts

Agricultural Pollution

Lilli Goodrich

McNeil High School, Austin, Texas

Sustaining Water Systems—Your Dangerous Waste”

Rebecca Possidel, Samantha Ramirez, and Denise Rubinstein

Valley Stream South High School, Valley Stream, New York

Improving Climate Resiliency

portrait of Lexis Sablan1st Place, High School

Cover Crops Against Climate Change
Lexis Sablan
Tiyan High School, Barrigada, Guam
Lexis was born and raised on the small island of Guam. She decided to focus on agricultural productivity “because the ever growing population is expected to exacerbate world hunger.” She said, “What had surprised me was the projected 70 percent growth of agricultural productivity needed to keep up with the population in the next decades.” She loves to mentor and inspire young kids, having taught her own robotics and coding classes and being an aid for a Girl Scout’s STEM camp. After high school, Lexis wants to attend Carnegie Mellon University to study computer science and software engineering. “I believe the future is in technology and I want to do my part in advancing the tech world and making it accessible to everyone.”

portrait of ruth mekuria1st Place, Middle School

Helping Climate Migrants
Ruth Mekuria
Wildwood School, Los Angeles, California
Ruth decided to focus on climate migrants as her topic because she sees it as an important issue that the world needs to do something about. “I thought that it was so sad people had to move because of it. Climate change is affecting people in a major way,” she said. Her solution centered around civic engagement—specifically, voting and demonstrations to urge policymakers to take action on climate change and help climate migrants. “I wanted to do a simple solution that we all could do,” she said, noting that influencing lawmakers is important. Ruth enjoys painting, drawing, ice-skating, and playing piano. Her favorite class at school is math. “I really like how there is a definite answer. And I like solving problems.”

2nd Place, High School
Sick of Climate Change
Emma Chestnut
Jersey Village High School, Jersey Village, Texas

2nd Place, Middle School
Ruminant Livestock & Climate Change
Jensen Coonradt
Bednarcik Middle School, Aurora, Illinois

Ensuring Economic Opportunities

portrait of sophia greenberg1st Place, High School

When We Help Women
Sophia Greenberg
Coppell High School, Coppell, Texas
Sophia tapped her art skills in creating the images seen in her video. She reflected on her strategy for formulating her video’s message, saying, “I wanted to get the message across quickly and wanted the viewer to be interested throughout the video.” This was Sophia’s first award for a project, and she identifies needing to be concise and incorporating clear messaging as the most challenging part of the process. Sophia enjoys serving as liaison of the Coppell High School Arts Council. She is also a Girl Scout, enjoys the outdoors, and has recently gotten into gardening. She has a vegetable plot at home with lots of tomatoes and is currently trying to determine how to grow a full tomato from seed-to-harvest without a bird or squirrel getting to it first!

1st Place, Middle School

portrait of annika chan and emmy yangBreaking Free from the Cycle of Poverty
Annika Chan and Emmy Yand
Eastside Preparatory School, Kirkland, Washington
Annika and Emmy were inspired to submit a video after learning this year about the Girl Effect, a non-profit organization that believes girls are able to lift their countries out of poverty if given the opportunity. They did not know much about population and its impacts on the world prior to conducting research, and they were very surprised to learn how many people there are living on earth. Annika would love to see “Protecting Ocean Wildlife” as a future video contest topic, a subject that she has a personal connection with. She has over 50 fish in her home aquarium and enjoys spending extra time with them while practicing social distancing due to COVID-19. Emmy is a dancer, and they both enjoy art and watching anime to pass the time.

2nd Place, High School
Microfinance—People Empowering People
Tyler Martire and Pearson Harrington
Gilman School, Baltimore, Maryland

2nd Place, Middle School
We’re Not Off the Hook Yet”
Ava Varasno, Mae Curiale, and Luna Espinosa DeRosas
North Shore Middle School, Glen Head, New York

Sustaining Water Systems

portrait of bryan nguyen1st Place, High School

Sanitation Infrastructure
Bryan Nguyen
Arnold O. Beckman High School, Irvine, California
Bryan decided to create a video to address water systems because of his interest in public health—especially now, as we’re seeing how the spread of disease impacts the global population. While researching global sanitation, Bryan made the connection between the spread of infectious diseases and population density. His research also highlighted the global need for populations to work together to achieve sustainability. “We only have one planet, so we all need to work together by aiding and assisting each other.” In addition to filmmaking, Bryan’s artistic pursuits include piano, which he has been playing for over 12 years. In the fall, he hopes to begin his public health studies at University of California, Irvine.

1st Place, Middle School

portrait of devin sullivan and kai yu zhangWaste Disposal
Devin Sullivan and Kai-Yu Zhang
Edith C. Baker School, Brookline, Massachusetts
For Devin and Kai-Yu (who declined to be interviewed for this piece), their decision to research and ultimately create a video about waste disposal was inspired by curiosity. Devin said, “I felt like I didn’t know that much about water systems and where garbage and recycling actually goes and ends up.” While researching for the video, Devin discovered that our large—and growing—population contributes mass amounts of waste at the global scale. Devin said, “Working on a project and [doing] research helps me learn so much [better] than just reading.” In the future she hopes to learn more about agriculture. Devin plays softball and basketball and likes to cook in her spare time.

2nd Place, High School
Anti-Plastic Party”
Raenelle Torres, Glenna Curioso, Riko Mizuta, and Scarlet Ramelb
Hawaii Technology Academy, Waipahu, Hawaii

2nd Place, Middle School
Global Effects of Agricultural Pollution
Rishika Pillai and Anuncy Jesayen
Coppell Middle School East, Coppell, Texas