Directing Change

2020 Award Ceremony


The Directing Change Program & Film Contest went virtual for our 8th annual Awards Ceremony this year. The live event streamed to 257 people as we announced the statewide winners of the 2020 contest. Youth filmmakers from across California were given awards for their short films to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention in several categories, including Mental Health Matters and Suicide Prevention, as well as Through the Lens of Culture and SanaMente, categories focused on the experience of diverse communities, Animated Short, a category focused on animated suicide prevention messages, and Walk in Our Shoes, the category specifically created for middle school students.

 The annual ceremony also celebrates outstanding achievements by directors, producers, and actors of film and television who serve as role models to the aspiring youth filmmakers in the program by using their platform to draw attention to mental health. The Award Ceremony celebrated Nkechi Okoro Carroll by awarding her and the team with the “Directing Change Recognition for Outstanding Show with Messaging Around Mental Health”, for her work on the CW series “All American”. Okoro Carroll was accompanied by stars of the show Daniel Ezra, Bre-Z, and Karimah Westbrook at the Awards Ceremony who shared, “To all the filmmakers- ya’ll are legendary!”

Screen all of the Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Matters finalists in one go in the following screenings:

Watch the recorded awards ceremony on Facebook, YouTube or Vimeo by clicking any of these links:

On May 21st, WE RISE 2020: Director’s Cut Conversation with Directing Change Youth went Live on Facebook and YouTube. During the event Directing Change filmmakers screened films about mental health and suicide prevention during this “Director’s Watch Party” discussion with filmmakers Bradley Buecker (executive producer of 9-1-1, Glee) and Lisa Klein (director of The S Word). Watch the recorded event by clicking on any of the links below:

We are excited to announce our 2020 People’s Choice winners! Congratulations to “I Am Me” for winning the People’s Choice Award – Mental Health Matters and “Sadie’s Coffee” for winning the People’s Choice Award – Suicide Prevention. Watch these amazing films today!

I Am Me:

Sadie’s Coffee:

This year, from across the state, Directing Change received 1,080 films created by 3,475 youth from 190 schools and community-based organizations. Entries were judged by over 300 advocates and professionals in mental health and suicide prevention, members of the media, and television and film professionals.

To view films and for a complete list of statewide and regional winners, honorable mentions, and special recognitions, visit

Congratulations to our statewide winners! View and download their films below:

Suicide Prevention

First place: “Our Battle”
Butte County
Pleasant Valley High School
Filmmakers: Vincent Zachary Muñoz and Jesus Chavez-Hernandez

Second place: “Moving Too Fast”
Riverside County
Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Filmmakers: Ingrid Peirce, Matthew Marcade, Gabriela Mora and Alyssa Watson

Third place: “The Signs”
San Mateo County
Burlingame High School
Filmmakers: Corbin Rubero and Will Graczewski

Mental Health Matters

First place: “Conflicting Currents”
San Bernardino County
Upland High School
Filmmakers: Jeremiah Andrade, Josh McConnell, Gavin DeLacruz and Luciano Aldana

Second place: “Baggage”
Orange County
Canyon High School
Filmmakers: Rachael Pollak, Mary Lee, Stella Spindler, Xander Lahti, Keira Feng and Madeline Bills

Third place: “Hashiru”
Los Angeles County
Warren High School
Filmmakers: Andrew Stratton, Ruben Mendoza and Daniel Sanchez

Through the Lens of Culture – Suicide Prevention

 First Place: “Our Story”
San Bernardino County
Summit High School
Filmmaker: Nicole Quinonez-Frias

Second Place: “Family”
Alameda County
Irvington High School
Filmmakers: Kexin Li and Vivian Liu

Third Place: “Love Wins”
Fresno County
Clovis East High School
Filmmaker: Graciela Vargas

Fourth Place: “It Takes Time”
Los Angeles County
James Monroe High School
Filmmakers: Nahelly Lopez Cardoza, Johan Gonzalez Alvarenga and Gisel Garcia

Fifth Place: “Me is You”
Fresno County
Clovis East High School
Filmmaker: Keng Xiong

Through the Lens of Culture – Mental Health Matters

First Place: “You are You”
Sacramento County
Franklin High School
Filmmakers: Benjamin Wong, Raymond Wang, Emily Cho, and Michelle Escudero

Second Place (TIED): “Los Hombres No Lloran”
San Bernardino County
Healthy RC Youth Leaders
Filmmakers: Michael Alonso, Chase Collins, Takbir Rahman, Wyatt Herrold, Ryan Fulton, Zonyea Redd, Caterina Marji, Natalie Masachi, Taylor Villanueva and Karla Villanueva

Second Place (TIED): “El Silencio Interior”
Los Angeles County
Warren High School
Filmmakers: Wendy Obispo and Leslie Gomez

Third Place (TIED): “I Want You To Know That…”
Riverside County
Murrieta Valley High School
Filmmakers: Eve Liu, Jasmine Pan and Olivia Feng

Third Place (TIED): “We Don’t Do That”
Solano County
Vanden High School
Filmmaker: Olivia Bishop

Fourth Place: “Mental Health and Nigerian Culture”
Sacramento County
Franklin High School
Filmmakers: Ezinne Okonkwo, Dideoluwa Ogunwale and Hannah Vecchione

Fifth Place: “Our Words/Nuestras Palabras”
Los Angeles County
Hilda Solis Learning Academy
Filmmakers: Esdras Medina, Camila Cardenas Lopez, Allisson Saavedra, Miguel Lopez, Christopher Corral, Carlos D. Aguilar, Yiret Solis, Dara Dayane Lopez Mendez, Angel Gordillo and Angel Maurillo Gonzalez

Animated Short

 First Place: “Audience of One”
Orange County
La Quinta High School Creative Writing
Filmmakers: Keanu Hua, Brian Ly, Kayla Nguyen and Alexa Wright

Second Place: “Notice The Signs”
San Bernardino County
Upland High School
Filmmaker: Sarah Chu

Third Place (TIED): “Fill the Bucket!”
Alameda County
Irvington High School
Filmmaker: Alisha Shah

Third Place (TIED): “Flying in Color”
Alameda County
Irvington High School
Filmmaker: Grace W. Yin

Fourth Place: “Friend in Need”
Los Angeles County
San Marino High School
Filmmakers: Jaden K. Mena and Sophie Fleming

Fifth Place: “The Weights and the Ink”
San Bernardino County
Encore High School Hesperia For The Arts
Filmmaker: Nora Salah



First Place: “Del Barrio”
Tri-City (Los Angeles County)
The School of Arts And Enterprise
Filmmakers: Jesse Marquez Jr., Dario Alatorre, Julian Valdez, and Kenny Marquez

Second Place: “Preguntas”
Los Angeles County
Clark Magnet High School
Filmmakers: Sophie Peineke, Parvaneh Motallebi, and Anne Reinhard

Third Place: “Mi Angelito”
Riverside County
Murrieta Valley High School
Filmmakers: Samantha Duarte, Aidan Duarte, and Marisol Garcia


Walk in Our Shoes – The Superhero in Each Of Us

 First Place: “Windows”
San Diego County
Rancho Minerva Middle School
Filmmakers: Brandon Burton, Katee Martinez, Karla Perez and Jacqueline Ortega

Second Place: “Not What It Seems”
Los Angeles County
Palms Middle School
Filmmakers: Emma Walter, Cora Iiams, Saleida Miguez, and Luna Wicks

Third Place: “Sympathetic Steps”
San Diego County
Hawking STEAM Charter School 2
Filmmakers: Daniel Quemado, Mikey Soto, Uriel Esquier, Oscar Dominguez, Aaron Marciel, Joshua Ducharme and Liliana Moreno


Walk in Our Shoes – What is Mental Health

 First Place: “Make Your Mark”
Riverside County
David A. Brown Middle School
Filmmakers: Jazmine Carillo, Natasha Powers, Jocelyn Pacheco, Tiffany Bravo, Casandra Viscarra and Crista Kerr

Second Place: “Saving a Friend”
Tri-City (Los Angeles County)
Mountain View Elementary School
Filmmakers: Alex Gonzales, Danny Vu, Julian Valverde and Paul Rosa

Third Place: “My Life”
Riverside County
Mountain View Middle School
Filmmaker: Ruben Martinez

Walk in Our Shoes – Words Matter

First Place: “Invisible”
San Diego County
Hawking STEAM Charter School 2
Filmmakers: Aleksandra Orozovich, Clarissa Martinez, Jael Perez, Victor Von-Eiff, Damian Cruz and Yaretzy Alvarez

Second Place: “The Effect of Words”
Tulare County
Washington Elementary
Filmmakers: Joseph Alvarez, Alex, Hector, Daddy Kimbell and Xelha

Third Place: “The Power of Words”
Tri-City (Los Angeles County)
Marshall Middle School
Filmmakers: Rena Ko, Jannell Gonzalez, Jannese Gonzalez, Vincent Cruz, Atiqa Shafiq and Estefany Romero

Thank you so much for attending our virtual Awards Ceremony! If you are enjoying the films and content, please spread the word and share information about our program to any youth who might be interested in participating in the future. Our program is free and open to any youth aged 14-25, or students in grades 6-12. As a nonprofit, we depend on donations from community members and organizations in order to reach all the youth that we serve. If you are interested in sending a donation, please visit our page here:  Thank you for your support!

A heartfelt thank you to our event sponsors:

Directing Change is part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement and statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, and to promote the mental health and wellness of students. These initiatives are funded by counties through the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63) and administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA), an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

This year our signature event sponsor is Blue Shield California. The Blue Shield of California BlueSky initiative supports mental health for middle and high school students in California by providing additional clinicians in schools, training teachers on the signs of mental health issues, and empowering students with in-person and online mental health support resources.  It is a multi-year effort in collaboration with the California Department of Education and leading nonprofit organizations to enhance access, awareness, and advocacy to mental health supports.

“Our heartfelt congratulations to the winners of the 2020 Directing Change Film Contest! While we wish we could walk the red carpet with you and be there in person to celebrate together, we are honored that we can still support your hard work this year. And to all the student filmmakers – thank you for your creativity and bravery in telling these incredible stories centered around mental health and suicide prevention.” – Amanda Lasik, BlueSky Program Manager

Your Social Marketer, Inc has been a Directing Change partner for many years and is passionate about having the films seen by as many people as possible to inspire much needed conversations on these topics in our schools, families and communities.  They will make a donation for every “Share and Tag” of this year’s finalists. Share your favorite films & tag the Directing Change Program here.

“We are so inspired by the talent and passion for social change shown by this year’s filmmakers and congratulate them on their achievements!” – The YSM Team

If you are experiencing an emotional crisis, are thinking about suicide or are concerned about a friend, call or text 988 for the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (24/7)