In January of 2017, the State of Vermont put out a challenge to independent schools. The challenge was to create a video representing their school, its uniqueness, and celebrating the alternative and independent school culture. The catch was, it had to be less than ten minutes and in the style of The Mannequin Challenge. For those who may not be familiar with this, individuals represent scenarios by freezing in place and being filmed live, without stopping the recording. The challenge comes from creating difficult or elaborate poses, mixed with holding still and appearing to be mannequins. The first five places would have the chance to win money.

Bellcate School decided to take on this challenge. We identified many of our programs and decided how we’d represent them. We gathered as a community and everyone received their scenario assignments. We spoke to the community about working together, everyone’s participation being needed and valued, the cool end product we would celebrate and watch together, and the fact that, if done well, we could win some money for the school!

Our students blew our minds with their focus and dedication to making this competition become a reality. To represent many of our programs, many students and staff needed to “act” in more than one scene. They needed to run from location to location and be in place by the time the camera came. After all, it’s all shot in one take! We had a practice take, identified a couple issues, and then went for it. On take two, we recorded the final product. With the addition of music and labeling the scenes, we submitted our Mannequin Challenge to The State of Vermont, and after a couple of weeks, we heard that we were in the top five and needed to be present in Montpelier for the viewing of the 1st place challenge video.  It was Bellcate! We, the staff and students of Bellcate, won $5000 and took home the winning check.

Check out the video from 2017 Mannequin Challenge HERE

The 2018 Challenge was released in late December and Bellcate was in! Last week, the winners were announced and WE DID IT AGAIN! This year’s Independent School Challenge followed the same criteria as last year. Convey why the school is unique, why would someone want to choose us, and express some school pride in the making. This year’s competition was a little different though. They decided to have multiple categories. For the school, we could write an essay or original poem, create a 2’x2’ art piece, or create an original song or video. We decide to mix 3 mediums and create a video featuring an original poem, written by former Bellcate staff, Jordan Royer, and it was performed by 9 students, we used a background track of an original song created by our very own Abdullahi, and put it all together in a video needing to be less than 5min. There was also a category for students and for parents. Each needing to submit a written piece no more than 500 words, describing their personal journey to finding the right school, how advocating for a different school placement came about, how it has impacted their lives, and why they’re glad they had the opportunity to choose.

On January 24th, Jac Treanor, the Events Director who spear headed the project, took Thor, one of our 9 slam poets, to Montpelier for the results of the competition. Upon their arrival, one of the judges told Jac, “We were blown away with what you’re doing up there at Bellcate!”. Jac and Thor got very excited, and they hoped this might mean they’d be taking home a prize. They attended an awards ceremony where they revealed the 2nd and 3rd place finishes in a couple categories and read honorable mentions for the top 10 in parent and student submissions. We were so excited to hear, “and receiving an honorable mention in the parents submission, Joy & Jason De Smit from Bellcate School.” The ceremony went onto the student submissions. They talked about how there were 3 essays they couldn’t decide upon for places 2 & 3, so they decided to pool the prize money and split it between the 3 entries so they all tied for 2nd place. They read off two names, and then they read, “also receiving a 2nd place finish and being awarded $333 is, Marina from Bellcate School!”

The crowd was released shortly after. Jac and Thor headed to the State House steps for the group photo and then went in the State House to witness a press conference and listen to a legislator speak. When that was done, they headed to Capitol Plaza for a luncheon. While eating, there was a powerful video of students at area schools expressing what choosing their school has meant for them, there were a couple key note speakers, and then they began the awards for the 1st place prize in all the categories. For the parents category, Jac was very excited to hear, “Kelly Fitzpatrick, a parent at Bellcate School is awarded 1st place and $1500!”.

Then the school category, “The people of BELLCATE SCHOOL are the reigning champs!” Jac went to the podium to accept the win. Asher Crispe, one of the individuals running the competition and also a judge, spoke about Bellcate winning last year and again this year. “What they do up at Bellcate works, and their submissions have just blown us away.” We are looking forward to having Brad and Asher visit the school, meeting the students, and presenting us with checks!

Click HERE for the 2018 WINNING Video!