West Ranch High School graduate Austyn Malynn considers herself the creative brain and her twin sister the math brain.
“I will do anything creative, just don’t put a math problem in front of me,” Malynn said, laughing.
So when the 17-year-old heard about the 2020 Census “Get Out the Count” Video Challenge, she knew it was right up her alley.
While it was her first time making an animated video, Malynn’s hard work would pay off: She was one of three winners awarded a $10,000 student prize for her video, “The 2020 Census Song!”
The challenge was to make a video explaining the importance of the census and how to complete it, while targeting “hard-to-count” communities.
“When we launched this competition in March, we could never have anticipated the challenges we face as a nation and need for continued support of our census,” Ron Jarmin, deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said in a prepared statement. “These inspiring and engaging videos help to reach hard-to-count communities, ensuring people are counted and more voices are heard through Census completion.”
Malynn spent about a week researching the census, learning about how it counts every person living in the U.S. and not only determines representation in Washington, but also affects the amount of funding each community receives for public services, such as schools, emergency services, Medicare and more.
She used her census research to help her create a script for the video before starting to draw. Right away, Malynn knew she wanted to animate her video, as she had just purchased an iPad and really wanted to try it out.
“I have never tried animation before, but it’s something that I thought would be unique if I did it,” she said. “My family laughs because over the span of the month that I needed to make it, I was glued to the iPad. … At least, every day for a month I was on my iPad, drawing frame by frame.”
As the due date approached, Malynn made a last-minute decision to turn her script into a song.
“That was actually probably the easiest part just because I’ve been songwriting since I was in the first grade, and I already had a script,” Malynn said. “Lyrics come pretty easily to me, so I was able to put it all together pretty fast at the end there.”
The U.S. Census Bureau announced the winners of the challenge during a live virtual event, awarding prizes to the top three most engaging videos from more than 750 nationwide submissions.
“They called me a little before the livestream happened and told me that I had won, and I was very surprised and in awe because there were so many amazing videos,” Malynn said. “I just remember I was jumping around with my sister and screaming. They had so many nice things to say about my video, which felt really nice.”
For Malynn, who wanted to be the next Taylor Swift when she was a young girl, songwriting was more than just a creative outlet.
“I learned the piano when I was 7, and so I’ve been playing the piano since then and writing most of my songs on the piano,” she added. “It was just a way to express myself and make sense of the world because I’m not very good at communicating my feelings, so that definitely became a big part of who I was.”
So, submitting the video and actually winning was a way to put herself out there.
“Showing my art to people is very scary, but it paid off,” she added. “I hope to someday release all the songs that I have, start being more creative and put myself out there more.”
Knowing that college would be expensive, especially as a twin, Malynn says the scholarship will help her to pursue her goals and education at Loyola University New Orleans in the fall as an English major.
“This money is definitely going to go towards my education and helping me learn more and find out what I want to do with my life,” she added.
The 2020 Census is still ongoing and people can respond by visiting 2020census.gov, calling 844-330-2020, which has support in 13 languages, including English and Spanish, or by mail.
To see how the SCV is doing on the 2020 Census Response Rate map, visit 2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html.