OPRF junior's film wins Walgreens Challenge

3-minute short explores young woman dealing with an eating disorder

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

An Oak Park and River Forest High School junior's 3-minute video exploring a young woman's battle with an eating disorder recently won first place in the media arts category of the 2018 Walgreens Expressions Challenge. 

Natalie Serratos' "Voices" stood out among submissions in different artistic categories made by more than 3,300 high school students in the Chicago area. 

"Eating disorders, low self-esteem, and distorted body image are issues that plague people of all groups and genders, but most commonly affect the lives of young women," Natalie explained in a statement. 

"By creating a short film that exposes the demons that controlled the main character and that represent constant inner conflict and struggle," she said, "I hoped that the audience would better understand what it is like to suffer from an eating disorder, an issue greater than just not wanting to eat, but instead a life-threatening mental illness."

District 200 officials said that 2018 "saw the most schools ever to participate" in the competition, which was judged by more than 70 artists, film and music producers, college professors, poets, writers, creative directors and other industry professionals from around the country.

"It is evident how much work went into Natalie's thought-provoking video," said District 200 Superintendent Joylynn Pruitt-Adams. "Her win is well deserved, and I am proud that she is a part of our Huskie family."

The Walgreens Expressions Challenge was launched in 2009 as a result of a recommendation brought by a task force the company had convened. 

"The group was alarmed by the rising incidents of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and AIDS, among high school students ages 14 to 18," according to the Challenge's website. 

"How, the group wondered, could students find creative ways to express themselves about some very serious topics while also becoming better connected to their peers in the process?"

In a statement released on Jan. 16, OPRF officials said that the Challenge "motivates participants to voice their opinion on critical life issues they face daily through creative writing, visual arts and media arts." 

According to Walgreens officials, the company awarded more than $15,000 to Chicago-area students who participated in this year's Challenge. Students in St. Louis may also participate in the initiative. 

To date, Walgreens has received more than 15,000 entries and has given away more than $250,000 to students, teachers or organizations, officials said. 

You can watch Serratos' film online at vimeo.com/311470289.

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com    

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