Three Michigan teens are finalists in Toyota Safe Driver video challenge

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Standing in the middle of a camera's viewfinder, Adelaide Wilson holds a yellow and black ukulele with a smile painted on the body. She's wearing a similarly-colored yellow shirt and pair of yellow earrings. Behind her, a dull gray backdrop contrasts against her vibrant clothes as she bobs her head back and forth.

Then she starts strumming.

“Hey, hey, hey, put that phone away,” she sings.

Different generations of phones she cut out in art class that were taped on wooden sticks suddenly move in front of her before disappearing just as quickly. Then two hands each holding a different end of a seat belt strafe across her body, before coming together as she sings her next line:

“Buckle up your seat belt if you want to be okay,” she continues.

Wilson's minute-long music video was posted on the TeenDrive365 website - where nine other videos also live. Each is a finalist in the Toyota Video Challenge, which asked high school students across the country to produce a video advocating against distracted driving.

Wilson's attachment to safe driving mimics what most of us desire: having safe drivers on the road. But apart from getting upset at her mom and friends for talking on the phone while behind the wheel, Wilson's “put that phone away” video is her first experience dipping her toes into the world of distracted driving campaigns.

“I watched the other winners, and thought 'these are all morbid,'” said said. “The initial idea was to have it be more lighthearted than the other videos.”

The Ferndale resident duel enrolls in her local high school, as well as the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts (CASA). With her mind on the rigorous academia of Advanced Placement classes, Wilson's eye has long been on the film-making and directing field. Couple that with her natural talent for singing and songwriting, it seemed right to combine her skills for a good cause.

"There were some really cool comedic lighthearted videos out there,” Wilson said, “but I thought maybe if I have a message that's got a tune that's really catchy, it would connect to people in a more positive way.”

The 17-year-old wants to attend a film school after she graduates. But that means a $33,000 tuition - which fell outside of her family's price range. Instead of waiving goodbye to that dream, she sought out scholarships that could fuel her theatrical endeavors. That's when she stumbled across the Toyota Video Challenge.

Some colorful art, deliberate songwriting and seven takes later, and her video was submitted. A month later, she learned she beat out 1,200 others to reach the final round. Accompanying her are other amateur videos produced by high school students, including two others from Michigan, Jacob A. from Clinton Twp and Jake W. from Jackson.

Each one of the finalists receive a $2,500 cash prize, which is good news for Wilson. But she's got her eyes on a bigger dollar sign. The first place prize is a $15,000 award and an opportunity to turn her submission into a TV-ready Public Service Announcement. While viewers have little control over who decides the winners in that category, they can still vote in the People's Choice Prize, with the winner receiving $5,000.

Voting concludes April 23.