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A film about a GeoFORCE Alaska, a University of Alaska Fairbanks outreach program, won a prestigious award at the 52nd Annual Regional Emmy Awards ceremony on June 6 in Seattle, Washington.

The film “GeoFORCE: A Journey to Understanding” won a High School Award of Excellence in the category of short form non-fiction at the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences ceremony. The awards ceremony celebrates the most outstanding video productions from five Northwest states — Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. NATAS is one of three sister organizations that give Emmy Awards to various sectors of television and broadband programming. It also offers special awards for high school students.

Two students — Leo Pfeifer and Raven Two Feathers — from the Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking Program in Seattle, created the film about the free outreach program, GeoFORCE Alaska. The UAF summer program aims to interest high school students from northern rural Alaska in science, mathematics and college through four annual geology field trips across the nation. The program resides in the College of Natural Science and Mathematics’ Geosciences Department.

The film documents the physical and personal journey of 20 students as they traveled through Washington and Oregon to explore volcanoes, coastlines and their capacity to learn at a college level. Two Feathers interviewed the students and helped shape the movie’s storyline while Pfeifer filmed and edited the movie.

Pfeifer said, “I think the film won because of the incredible stories that we were lucky enough to be able to tell. More than flashy camera work or special effects, I think that people connect with stories that are important and authentic, and what the students had to say provided that to those who watched the film.”

GeoFORCE Alaska director Sarah Fowell enlisted the high school students’ help through her brother, Matt Lawrence, director of Ballard High School’s Digital Filmmaking Program.

“That this organization of television professionals selected the GeoFORCE production for the award is high praise for Leo and Raven,” Lawrence said. “They’re talented students. I look forward to seeing their future productions.”

Anne Rittgers, the Alaska GeoFORCE program coordinator, said the program is honored to have had such talented and now award-winning filmmakers. “It showed the students’ families and others what it’s like to be in the field with us.”

Students from the Ballard High School Digital Filmmaking Program earned 11 nominations and won five awards.  This makes the ninth year in a row that Ballard High School film students have been nominated by the academy.

Go to to see the full video.

ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Matt Lawrence, director of the Digital Filmmaking Program, Ballard High School in Seattle, Washington, 206-252-1117,

Diane Bevins,  executive director for the Northwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, 206-575-3444,

Sarah Fowell, director of GeoFORCE Alaska, 907-474-7810,

To contact Leo Pfeifer and Raven Two Feathers, please email


This content was originally posted by Meghan Murphy to the UAF Cornerstone on 6/8/15.

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GeoFORCE Alaska students hike on the Matanuska Glacier during the 2012 academy trip in Alaska.