The five Spanish Springs High School students won cash prizes after entering a contest to make the best 7-minute documentaries. As their teacher Mike Bowers told us, "We had 19 different groups making documentaries for this contest, in my class alone"

Mike thought the contest would be great for his students. He was right...they jumped into it the first day and picked their own topics. Student Jill Brown interviewed two judges for her film on federalism. Today, she's surprised, "That I could do it by myself! I was a little nervous to go in front of judges.”

C-SPAN invites students all over the country to try for $100,000 in cash prizes in what's called 'Student Cam.' Besides the cash, it gives the students film skills and lets their voices be heard. Bowers told me, "All I did was give them the assignment and the project, turned them loose, and they created a masterpiece."

The "masterpiece" is the 7-minute film, “Homeless Is Not Hopeless.” Student Connor Lenzora is part of the team of four that made it. Their topic was unanimous. As he says, "Around here there's a big homeless problem, so we thought this was a good opportunity to shed some light."

It states that in Nevada, the state ranks 4th in the nation for homeless people who are unsheltered. Unfortunately, due to the nation's sheer number of homeless, oftentimes the shelters find themselves in overflow. It features an interview with Elaine Wiseman, Reno’s manager of housing and neighborhood development. As she says in the film, "We have an overflow shelter. This shelter holds 302 people. That includes men, women and families."

Student Kaitlyn Stout told me, “It was really hard to stop once we started because you start talking to people and you learn so much more information that we could have ever thought."

Their film, and Jill's, won 3rd prize and $750 each. Stout says, "It's not so much about us winning. It's about shedding light on an issue that's really important to us." Besides the cash, they earned experience, and a true education. Winner Samantha Lepori says, "Once we got started, it all just came together and we started booking interviews here, here and here."

They got so involved, that the hardest part was choosing what to cut for the 7-minute time limit.

You can see their video online at the link below: