PHOENIX - Prison reform and gender equality in the workplace were two subjects explored that won students at a Phoenix High School national recognition.

C-SPAN’s StudentCam 2016, a video documentary completion created by the cable public affairs network, honored two groups of students from Metropolitan Arts Institute for their work in raising awareness, through filmmaking, for issues they felt should be addressed by the Presidential candidates.

“I had never made a documentary film before and I think it really opened my eyes to another side of film,” Said Metropolitan Arts Institute senior Danela Mock-Zubia. “A side of film that can help you bring about change in the world and I really like that.”

Mock-Zubia and her partner in the project, Sophia Taglienti, wrote, shot and edited a documentary titled Rethinking Reform: Prisons in America. The film explores the issue of overcrowding in the United States prison system.

“I think we wanted to get the message across that this is a crisis that’s happening in the United States—this mass incarceration—and the war on drugs is something that is ruining our country and I think it should be talked about more than it is.” Mock-Zubia said.

Metropolitan Arts Institute is a private charter High School focused on the arts. The School’s filmmaking classes produced the top two winners of StudentCam 2016 for the Western region.

“We decided that we wanted to do our documentary for C-SPAN on women's equality in the workforce.” Said senior Christian Payne. His group produced the documentary titled Wag(e)ing War: The Struggle for Equality in the Workplace.

“I definitely have a deeper appreciation for what my grandmother went through, because she worked in warehouses all her life and she was always telling me stories about how she was mistreated.” Payne said.

His partners in the project, Alexander Walter and Katheryn Menard agreed with Payne adding the impact that film can make.

“I think that's something we all respect about filmmaking is it brings, sometimes abstract, issues that are removed from us, right in front of my eyes and helps us feel emotion and helps us feel empathy towards what other people are going through.” Walter said.

Winners of StudentCam 2016 receive cash prizes ranging from $250 to $5,000. Separate prizes are also awarded to the classroom for the purchase of video equipment.

When she first started attending Metropolitan Arts Institute, Mock-Zubia was interested in pursuing music. After taking a class in filmmaking, she found her calling.

“I'd like to keep making documentary films on subjects like prison reform. I'd like to make something that can enact change.” Mock-Zubia said.

C-SPAN will introduce StudentCam 2017’s rules and topic in September. A link for teachers of students interested in participating can be found here.

Links to the 2016 student projects can be found here.