Thurston student earns scholarship for commercial

Written by, Scott Daniel.

For the third time in four years, a Thurston High School student has won a Courageous Persuaders scholarship.

Senior Aaron Hightower, Jr., earned a $2,500 award from State Farm Insurance for his 30-second commercial warning middle school students of the dangers of underage drinking and driving. Putting his winning entry together turned out to be a family affair.

“It meant a lot to me that my dad helped,” said Hightower, whose father works for The Detroit News as a graphic artist and page designer. “I like that we created a project that turned into a scholarship.”

Now in its 16th year, the Courageous Persuaders competition aims to show middle school students not only the dangers of drinking and driving, but also underage drinking as well as texting while driving. The contest drew 652 entries from 242 high schools, and has involved over 1,000 students from 43 states across the U.S. and Canada.

Entries were narrowed down to 60 and then placed on YouTube. The top 20 commercials, in terms of views, won awards. Hightower’s earned a top spot by just 21 votes.

“It’s pretty fun and pretty nerve wracking trying to get those votes,” said Thurston Media Studies teacher Kara Clayton, whose class Hightower has been a part of. “People all over the world voted for our video.”

The Detroit Auto Dealers Association helps sponsor the competition and hosted its annual Courageous Persuaders Awards Celebration on May 11 at the Emagine Theater in Royal Oak. DADA Project Manager Sandy Herp said her organization fully supports the message behind the competition.

“We want high school students to be safe drivers out on the roads,” she said.

Hightower also received a certificate of recognition from Redford Supervisor Tracey Schultz-Kobylarz.

“The video Aaron put together is amazing,” she said. “I’m really, really proud of Aaron.”

The production featured a pair of Hightower’s 17 puppets, a young fellow named “Alan” and his dad the fireman. The 18-year-old plans to continue his study of broadcasting and digital media this fall at Henry Ford Community College.

“My main goal,” said Hightower, “is to have a kids show with my puppets.” | 734-672-5026