Be Unique

Think outside the box. There are so many new technical ways to create a video, as well as different styles too. Claymation or animation, writing poetry or a song, creating a rock video or a movie trailer – just to name a few.

Your Message

There are so many messages that can show the consequences such as losing a limb, going to jail, having your driver’s license suspended, depression or other health issues. It’s up to you to come up with a message that will impact the middle school student judges.

Don’t Forget the Fun Factor

Even though the topic is serious, you can still have a lot of fun with your video.

Put Together a Team

All team members must be United States or Canadian citizens attending a United States high school. You can have as many as five team members or you may work as an individual. Pick a team captain. Please remember that scholarship money will be divided among all team members.

Get the Facts

Learn about the problem. Talk to people about it. Go to the library. Find out how big a problem it is and about some of the consequences. There are facts provided by our own experts listed below under the section “Statistics”.

Develop Some Ideas

Based on what you find, write down some short notes on what you could make your video about. Just simple one or two line descriptions. Write as many as possible.

Talk to Your Target

Run your ideas by some middle school kids. Get them talking. Then listen. Listen very carefully, because they will give you clues. After talking to them, take another look at your ideas, and make up some new ones. Look at previous winners and read actual quotes from middle school students about the winners.

Pick Your Winners

Collaborate with your team, look at the ideas and see if they can be better. Pick your top two or three ideas. Choose based on how well you think the ideas will get the attention of the kids and change their minds too. Oh, and make sure it is something you actually can produce with a little imagination.

Plan the Production

Remember, it has to be 30 seconds or less. You can use your family video camera. Or you might have one available at your school. You can also contact your local access cable station and inquire about equipment they have available. Look at your storyboard and make some production notes:

  • Cast your actors
  • Designate locations
  • List your props
  • Assign roles to your team
  • Make a timetable for shooting and editing
  • Check the Rules Again!

Be sure to check the rules again, or your video may be disqualified. Click here to view the rules.

Make the Spot

Leave enough time for shooting and reshooting if necessary. Don’t try to do everything at once. You may want to separate the acting, if you have any, from background and scenery shots. Whatever works for you is OK.

Meet the Deadline

The deadline is March 11, 2024. Your entry must be submitted online here.

The following are tips from Roger Smith, 2007 Courageous Leader Award Winner and teacher at Lake Orion High School, Lake Orion, Michigan. Roger found ways to integrate Courageous Persuaders into his teaching program to motivate his students, without compromising the program philosophy or its goals. As he put it, “The Courageous Persuaders program gives my students a chance to truly apply their knowledge towards a project that has a positive, real outcome.”

Keep your idea simple.
You only have 30 seconds, so convey your idea clearly and don’t try to do too much.

If you decide to include text/graphics, make sure the graphics are easy to read.
Cursive fonts are often hard to read on TV so make sure they’re posted large enough for the audience to read.

Good camera work!
You don’t have to be professional, but you probably don’t want it to look like home video either. So, try for steady shots (use a tripod), and make sure all the action/information is within the frame. Remember that your audience can’t see what’s outside the viewfinder, so make sure you show everything you want them to see.

Good sound!
If someone is talking, make sure we can hear them without background noise. Don’t setup a camera/mic 30-feet away from the action and still expect to have good audio. You don’t need fancy microphones either. Simple solutions include moving the camera/mic closer and/or recording the audio separately and editing it in later.

Courageous Persuaders is about the idea and about how you convey that idea.
It doesn’t matter how expensive your editing equipment or cameras are. If you feel your equipment WILL hinder you, keep in mind there are inexpensive solutions. For example, instead of buying expensive lighting kits, borrow a couple of lamps from your living room! If you don’t have a way to edit on a computer, free/trial downloads are available software; something simple like Windows MovieMaker is all you need.

Ask YOUR middle schoolers if they like your video.
Since middle schoolers are your target audience, and since you have middle schoolers in your district, ask THEM to judge your video before you submit the final version to Courageous Persuaders. Don’t just ask them if it’s good, ask them to tell YOU what’s happening in the video; this will give you great insight into their perception of your scenes. For example, you might think your video conveys a party scene at a club, but the middle schoolers could say it looks like a couple of friends hanging out in someone’s basement.

Don’t wait until the last minute!
This tip shouldn’t be a newsflash. It’s common sense. If you procrastinate, you’re more likely to make mistakes and to skimp on the important content. Give yourself time to get feedback and to go back and redo something. If you decide your first version is perfect and it’s still three months before the deadline, that’s okay too…send it in!

Double-check your link before you send your submission.
Be 100% sure your contact information is complete before you send it. It’s going to be hard for the judges to evaluate your piece if it was incorrectly recorded or incomplete.

No regrets!
Don’t look for excuses as to why you won’t have time to make a video. Get it done. The worst that can happen is that you don’t “win.” Courageous Persuaders doesn’t publish a list of videos that didn’t win. They don’t call out your name and tell people to boo you. In the end, you’ll still have won because you had the courage to produce a message. Even if you don’t win, show it on your local public access station, put it on the web and save a copy for later. The scholarships are great, but this contest is about so much more.

Before you go out and shoot, you will want to do some storyboards based on your ideas. Storyboards outline the action in each scene in your spot and the words that will be spoken by actors or a narrator. They also include any onscreen type or special effects. They don’t have to be as fancy as the Buick/Tiger Woods spot below. Stick figures will do. Just combine words and pictures to show how they will fit together, and get an idea of what you need to shoot. They’ll help you as a guide to editing your spot.

Impaired Driving:

Impaired driving includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drug use, including marijuana, and when drowsy. Impaired driving affects judgment, reaction times, and awareness, which makes it especially dangerous for teen drivers whose inexperience already places them four times more likely to crash than adults.

  • Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities increased by 14% from 2019 to 2020, accounting for 30% of overall motor vehicle crash fatalities in 2020.
  • In 2019 17% of high school students nationwide reported riding with a driver who had been drinking alcohol at least once during the past month.
  • In 2019 5% of high school students nationwide reported driving after drinking alcohol at least once during the past month.
  • In 2021, 23% of high school students nationwide reported drinking alcohol at least once during the past month.
  • Teens who drink underage or who ride with impaired drivers are more likely to drive impaired themselves.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Impaired Driving.”

Impaired driving is entirely preventable. Know the facts, and talk with your kids about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs:

  • About one in four teen car crashes involve an underage drinking driver.
  • Every day about 800 people are injured in a drunk-driving crash.
  • Every day in America, another 29 people die as a result of drunk-driving crashes. That’s one person every 50 minutes.
  • Marijuana use is increasing, and 13 percent of weekend nighttime drivers have marijuana in their system.
  • Marijuana users were about 25 percent more likely to be involved in a crash than drivers with no evidence of marijuana use.

SAMHSA. “Impaired Driving: Talk With Your Kids.”



Distracted Driving:

Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. Any of these distractions can endanger you, your passengers, and others on the road.

There are three main types of distraction:

Visual: taking your eyes off the road

Manual: taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

Among fatal crashes involving distracted drivers in the U.S. in 2019:

  • A higher percentage of drivers ages 15–20 were distracted than drivers age 21 and older.
  • Among these younger drivers, 9% of them were distracted at the time of the crash. Which is the highest percentage of any age group.

Students who texted or emailed while driving were also more likely to report other transportation risk behaviors. They were more likely to:

  • not always wear a seat belt
  • ride with a driver who had been drinking alcohol
  • drive after drinking alcohol.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Distracted Driving | Transportation Safety | Injury Center.”

Passengers, talking/texting on a cell phone, changing the radio, eating, or applying makeup are all dangerous distractions. If the brain is thinking about anything other than driving, it can make it difficult to react during a potential crash.

  • In 2020, there were 3,142 people killed and an estimated additional 324,652 people injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • In 2020, 7% of drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted, the largest proportion for any age group.
  • In 2019, 39% of high school students reported texting or emailing while driving during the past month.
  • Young adults (ages 18-24) who self-report cell phone use while driving also engage in other risky driving behaviors, such as speeding, running red lights, and impatiently passing a car in front on the right.
  • Even though teens recognize that talking or texting on a cell phone or using social media apps while driving is unsafe, they often engage in these behaviors anyway.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Distracted Driving.”

Courageous Persuaders Free-Use Music Rules

  • Permission is granted for use in the Courageous Persuaders competition only.
  • You are welcome to use our special Courageous Persuaders Free-Use Music, available exclusively to students producing commercials for this competition.
  • On your submission, you must identify the music as “Courageous Persuaders Free-Use Music” and specify the track number you used.
  • Email Brian Yessian with any questions:

Access the music library:

NOTE: Please do not change the password, as this account needs to be accessed by all students.

Login here using the credentials below.

Once logged in. Click the Yessian Logo to return to the home page.

At the home page, navigate the menu bar and locate “Music Search”


Once logged in. Click here to directly visit the “Music Search” page.

User ID:
Password: CP1111

Teacher Resources

Access resources like our Educational Activity Guide to use in your classroom.