Whitman students compete in GMA's nationwide Katy Perry contest

WASHINGTON, October 4, 2013 – They may be Vikings, but they sure are trying to roar.

A video directed, filmed, and produced by the leadership team at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, MD has gone viral. The film, entered into Good Morning America’s “ROAR with Katy Perry” nationwide contest, is one of the top trends on Twitter and Facebook in the DC-metro area.

“It’s rising, it’s building, it’s like a snowball going downhill,” said Whitman junior Sam Dodd who directed the film.

With over 55,000 views since its YouTube release on October 1, the lip-synched rendition of Perry’s number one single is even more impressive for its quick turnaround. Despite initial fears, Dodd and his director of photography Brandon Babbitt rallied behind student and staff support to create, film, and edit the two-minute video in only seven days.

“Our school story works with the song,” Dodd said. “The story of making the film itself was Roar. We were given a giant obstacle. We had to get this video done in seven days.”

“It’s hard to get 2,000 students behind something in a week,” Babbitt agreed. “But as I realized people were getting really excited about this - the football team was recruiting people, the cheerleaders were excited, the drum team was getting involved - I started getting really excited.”

The video, which featured almost all of the school’s 1,951 students, has awakened a sense of spirit and pride that many at the school believed to be missing.

“I think it was a wake up call,” Dodd said. “With the amount of SATs, ACTs, studying, tests, I think it was really good to get our spirit back. To roar. To come together and make something amazing out of it.”

“Whitman’s ROAR” hasn’t just ignited excitement in the Whitman community, but at other local high schools as well. As the only school in the DC-metro area to submit an entry, Whitman has received praise and encouragement from usual rivals like Wooten High School’s SGA who sent a congratulatory tweet, and Stone Ridge High School who featured the video in their newspaper.

“It’s created a really positive environment,” said Sheryl Freedman, staff sponsor of the school’s leadership team. “It’s nice to have some positivity, especially between schools. To get support from people who normally wish us not to win has been really great.”

In addition to showcasing Whitman’s school spirit, one of the big messages Dodd, Babbitt, and SGA president Jorge Richardson hoped to promote was Whitman’s passion, including the $91,761 raised by students last year for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The amount was the most raised by any high school in the US.

“[Whitman’s] had a lot of personal connections with leukemia and lymphoma, so that’s why there’s been such a rallying cry of support,” Freeman said. “We really wanted to emphasize in our video that what we’re really proud of as our roar is the school coming together to raise money for such a good cause.”

Dodd, Babbitt and the rest of the SGA and Whitman leadership team will find out if they are one of the top five finalists on October 10th. If chosen by Katy Perry live on Good Morning America eight days later, the singer will perform at the school on October 25th. Coincidentally, Perry’s concert would coincide with the school’s homecoming football game.

“This year specifically a lot of us want to bring homecoming back because it’s lost a lot of its tread,” Dodd said. “But if we bring Katy Perry to homecoming, it will leave a legacy.”

Even if the school does not receive national recognition, Principal Goodwin believes that his students have already won something else: pride, spirit, and a great story to tell.

“To me, as I told Sam, you’ve already won by getting it to happen and to happen in such a positive way.”

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Alex Sopko

Alex may be one of the few sports writers who doesn’t have a favorite team. Or a favorite sport. But she does have favorite stories. Buying into the words “it’s not the score that matters, it’s the athlete,” Alex has for the past six years covered personal sports stories that range from inspiring to fascinating to down right weird.


Alex is a former Division I athlete and sports editor at Harvard University. After interning with The Washington Times sports department in 2009, she now contributes regularly to the Washington Times Metro, Sports, and Communities sections.


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