National Service Agency Announces Winners of AmeriCorps Video and Photo Contest

Sep 18, 2009

Washington, D.C. – The Corporation for National and Community Service announced the winners of its 2009 AmeriCorps Video and Photo contest before hundreds of program directors gathered at the annual AmeriCorps grantee meeting here yesterday.

Linda Raynes, a second-year AmeriCorps member serving with Plus Time New Hampshire AmeriCorps, won first place for her video “Use These,” which highlights the ways AmeriCorps members change their communities through service. Sarah Bass, who served two AmeriCorps terms with Teach for America in Los Angeles, won first place in the photo division for her picture “Sowing Seeds of Hope", which captures the experience of AmeriCorps by showing the hands of a 12-year-old holding seeds of wheat before planting.

“Every year this contest gives us a chance to tap into the incredible creativity of AmeriCorps members and alums,” said Kristin McSwain, the agency's Chief of Program Operations. “AmeriCorps is a transforming experience, and no one can tell the AmeriCorps story better than those who serve. We were thrilled with the response and the excitement this contest generated, and look forward to using these videos and photos to recruit more AmeriCorps members.”

The contest was part of the third annual AmeriCorps Week, a national recruitment and recognition event that took place May 9 through 16. The contest, which was open solely to AmeriCorps members and alums, drew more than 40 video and 325 photo submissions. All of the entries can be viewed at the AmeriCorps Video and Photo Contest website at

Pure Digital, maker of Flip Video™ digital camcorders, sponsored the prizes for this year's contest. Raynes and Bass will each receive a Flip Mino HD camera. The contests' second and third place winners will each receive a Flip Ultra. Finalists will receive an AmeriCorps Alums gear package from AmeriCorps Alums, and semi-finalists will receive a Starbucks gift card.

Sarah Bass took a fable about planting seeds as the inspiration for her first-place photograph. “The seeds represent the hope that got me out of bed and to my classroom every morning, even on the hard days. Why? Because the investments made today, no matter how small, give potential to tomorrow.That was my vision; that's the vision of AmeriCorps,” she said.

Like the winning photo, the “Use These” video placed a special emphasis on using one's hands— the “tools” one is already equipped with—to serve. “When I did the project, I was trying to capture the spirit of what our program did, helping the community and working with kids.” Raynes serves at the Seymour Osman Community Center in Dover, NH.

Mary Gordon, who served with AmeriCorps NCCC Class XV at the Sacramento Campus, took second place in the video contest for “Words into Action.” Blake Brown, currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with HandsOn Bay Area in San Francisco, garnered third place with “Getting Things Done.”

Zoe Zulakis, currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Montana Justice Foundation after completing a previous term with the Montana Conservations Corps, took second place in the photo contest with “On Top of the World.” Another Montana Conservation Corps alum, Mark Genito, won third place for his photo “Trail Work.”

The photo contest is new this year and builds on the highly popular video contest, which has generated more than 70 home-made videos by AmeriCorps members and alums over the past two years. The Corporation distributed the 2007 contest winners as PSAs to 1,200 television stations across the US, where they have aired more than 37,000 times and have made 546 million audience impressions. Past winners are also included in the AmeriCorps Presentation Kit and on the Corporation's YouTube channel. The contest is part of the agency's efforts to use new media and Web 2.0 strategies to support recruitment and other programmatic goals.

This year the agency assembled a panel of celebrity judges to help in selecting the winning entries. Video judges were Rick Allen, SnagFilms; Dave Braun, Braun Film and Video; Thulani Davis, Screenwriter; Hill Harper, actor; CSI New York; Ester C. de Miro D'Ajeta, professor, History of Cinema at University of Genoa; Kate Pierson, lead singer-B52s; Alexis Scott, publisher, Atlanta Daily World; Jamie Walker, winner 2008 AmeriCorps Video Contest, AmeriCorps alum; and Steve Yeager, winner, Best Documentary Award, Sundance Film Festival.

Photo contest judges included Patterson Clark, Washington Post; Eric Greitens, author and photographer; Lord David Evans, publisher, Centurion; Mary Edna Fraser, airborne photographer/artist; Hyepin Im, Board member, Corporation for National and Community Service; Abby Mott Townsend, graphic creative director; Ari Shapiro, NPR correspondent; and John Taylor, author and food editor.

Judges in both categories evaluated submissions based on five criteria: overall impact, creativity, memorable content and delivery, clear messages, and alignment with the mission and goals of AmeriCorps. The celebrity judges selected five finalists from the videos and nine from the photos prior to public online voting.

The contest added excitement to AmeriCorps Week and created a way for AmeriCorps members and alumni to showcase the hard work they do throughout the year. This year's AmeriCorps Week involved more than 485 projects across the nation, a robust social media campaign, recognition events at Major League Baseball games, and presentations in schools and community groups that reached more than 200,000 people.

Video Contest

First Place Winner: Use These
Linda Raynes

Second Place Winner: Words Into Action
Mary Gordon

Third Place Winner: Getting Things Done
Blake Brown

Photo Contest

First Place Winner: Sowing Seeds of Hope
Sarah Bass

Sowing Seeds of Hope by Sarah Bass

Second Place Winner: On Top of the World
Zoe Zulakis

On Top of the World by Zoe Zulakis

Third Place Winner: Trail Work
Mark Genito

Trail Work by Mark Genito

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