Teens teaching other teens about the dangers of addiction was the central theme in the Media $500 Contest, which on Monday awarded cash prizes to local teen videographers and songwriters.

Behind the event is the group SafeLaunch, with teen leadership dedicated to preventing young people from addiction caused by adolescent use of tobacco, alcohol and drug use.

Outside the Santa Barbara Airport, local teens were recognized as checks were handed out for their creations.

Michaela McGee of Santa Barbara Junior High School, who took first place in the video category, talked about her video and the importance of SafeLaunch. If teens hear from another friend about the dangers of drug abuse, said said, they’re more likely not to abuse.

“They believe the message more when it comes from a peer,” McGee said.

The Santa Barbara Rescue Mission’s Rolf Geyling spoke about the importance of early intervention. The Rescue Mission is the largest residential drug treatment program between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and Geyling has heard many stories of addiction.

“It’s very difficult to come up with a typical addict profile,” he said, adding that young, old, rich and poor can all find themselves in the throes of addiction. One commonality exists, however.

“Almost every story starts with drug experimentation during the teen years,” Geyling said. “SafeLaunch aims to prevent and address addiction before it even starts.”

Santa Barbara City Councilman Randy Rowse, Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Dave Cash, and school board members Ed Heron, Monique Limon and Kate Parker were also present Monday.

Cash commended the show of support and congratulated the young winners.

“This time of year is a great time to review choices with your children,” he said

The entries were judged by acclaimed songwriter Jeff Barry, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, and Roger Durling, executive director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“Having a contest is a great way to get the attention of teens,” said Janet Rowse, who serves on SafeLaunch’s Executive Board of Directors. “We want to show them there are benefits to finding your own path.”

The contest winners will soon be on the group’s website, and Rowse said the video entries will be viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival next year and in television spots, and the jingles and songs will end up on the radio.

To donate to SafeLaunch or get involved, click here to visit the group’s website.

Winners

Best Public Service Announcement

Christian Pearson, Bishop Garcia Diego High School, $250

Best Jingle

Christian Pearson, Bishop Garcia Diego High School, $250

Best Video

» First Place: Michaela McGee, Santa Barbara Junior High, $500
» Second Place: Garrett Geyer, Santa Barbara High School, $250
» Third Place: Hailey Sestak, Santa Barbara High School, $50

Best Songwriting

» First Place: Daniel Schneipp, Dos Pueblos High School, $500
» Second Place: Christian Pearson, Bishop Garcia Diego High School, $250
» Third Place: Miranda Field-Elliott, Santa Barbara High School, $50

McGee and Coby Kaufer were also raffle winners for early entry and took home $100 each.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.