Senior Melissa Pratt selected as top Illinois student innovator


Concentrating on precisely positioning a camera, South senior Melissa Pratt films for a video project. According to Julie Benca, GBS television and film teacher, Pratt’s creative, driven, and skilled personality makes her deserving of being selected by the Celebrating High School Innovators program.

Jordyn Ehlinger, staff reporter

South senior Melissa Pratt was chosen as one of the top 100 student innovators in Illinois by the Celebrating High School Innovators program this spring.

According to Pratt, she found out about the program from Julie Benca, GBS television and film teacher. At first, Pratt applied to the program to test her luck, and later received news that she had been selected.

“I’m not surprised that she applied for [it] because she always takes advantage of the extra opportunities,” Benca said. “[…] She’s [also] a very creative and hardworking person, so I’m not surprised that she [won].”

In addition to receiving the title of one of the top 100 student innovators in the state, Pratt was also named top 20 in her category of arts, media and literature. According to Pratt, there are 20 people in each category, consisting of the pre-existing top 100 innovators, who are equal in terms of placement.

Along with an award, Pratt was invited to a retreat hosted by the program from May 8-9.

“I think that she’ll really benefit from connecting with other students like her, who are really hardworking and creative,” Benca said. “Hopefully she’ll make some connections […] that she can touch base with as she goes on in her college career and after that. I think it will be good for her to meet with different students from different schools [and] different cultures, who have different interests.”

According to Pratt, she will meet people at the retreat who share common interests with her, as well as university and government leaders. She is also looking forward to gaining a real-world experience by working with experts in a similar field as hers.

“There will be people possibly in the [film] business, so that’ll be cool to basically hang out with all these cool people who have gotten chosen for different things and […] to make connections for the future,” Pratt said.

To qualify for her award, Pratt was required to write an essay about her current innovations and her plans to innovate in the future.

“I’ve done a bunch of narratives, documentaries, public service announcements, commercials [and] live shooting,” Pratt said. “I’ve done every genre of film, I’ve won some awards from the Chicagoland Television Educators Council and from the Northbrook Film Festival and I’ve been into film my whole life.”

According to Benca, Pratt’s passion for film is what made her stand out amongst the other candidates.

“Melissa is incredibly driven, creative and talented,” Benca said. “She brings a lot of ideas to the table at all times and she will spend a lot of time working on a project she pursues. [She has] very creative ideas and [is] definitely a go-getter.”