Now Seeking Judges


We are now seeking judges to help us select the winning films. Do you have expertise/interest in directing, writing, editing, acting, journalism, public service announcements, video production, suicide prevention, and/or mental health? Contact us about becoming a judge today! The entire process takes less than 2 hours of your time, all of which can be done online from home. Please note that you cannot participate as a judge if you are submitting a film or associated in any way with a film team that is submitting a team (e.g., teacher, adult advisor, family member). 

Submit an application to become a judge today!

A big thank you to our 2022 Judges

A big thank you to our statewide, regional, and specialty category judges

2022 Statewide Judges
2022 Through the Lens of Culture Judges
2022 Hope & Justice Judges
2022 Animated Short Judge
2022 Walk in Our Shoes Judges
2022 Regional Judges

2022 Statewide Judges

Angela Padilla is a passionate advocate for ensuring every family has access to mental health information, education and treatment as well as financial wellbeing. Angela’s commitment and her passion for mental health awareness comes from personal experience of supporting her mother as she lives with Bipolar. As a result, Angela became an advocate for her mother, seeking mental health information from a young age which motivated her to earn a degree in Psychology. She learned that even in the age of the internet, accurate and reliable mental health information can be difficult to find.

Angela Cohen is an established producer with films sold to MGM Orion & Shorts TV.  She was handpicked by Google to direct the thriller “Abduction” via Jumpstart VR and qualified for the Oscars with her short, “Without Grace” which she also wrote and starred in. Angela founded Charley Bear Productions with a vision to affect change through cinema, telling unique and diverse stories through the female lens.

Bradley Buecker is executive producer of Fox’s new hit show “9-1-1”. He is also director and producer of the Golden Globe nominated show “Glee” and has worked on numerous other projects including “The New Normal”. In 2015, Mr. Buecker received the award for “Program Supporter and Student Mentor of Directing Change” for his long time support of the Directing Change Program.

Caitlin Brands is a television industry professional. She has worked in television as an Assistant Production Coordinator for over 6 years. She has worked with Netflix, FOX, Hulu, TNT, CBS, and TBS on various shows. She has recently worked for VFX in films, and worked as a Writers Production Assistant on a Netflix and Nickelodeon show. Her personal written work has placed in semi finals in various competitions. 

Cary McQueen, MAM is the Executive Director of Art With Impact, a nonprofit organization that uses art and community dialogue to support mental wellness for young people and their advocates throughout the United States and Canada.

Celeste Lecense (he/they) wrote the short film Trevor which won an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short and he is co-founder of The Trevor Project, the only nationwide Lifeline for LGBTQ youth.  He has written three novels for young adults, and created The Letter Q, a collection of letters by queer writers written to their younger selves. An actor as well as a writer, Celeste is best known for his award-winning solo shows including The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey for which the NYTimes ranked him “among the most talented solo performers of his (or any) generation.” He is also the co-founder of The Future Perfect, a national arts initiative for LGBTQ+ youth.

Chantelle James: Co-owner of production company Kid Sister Collective, Chantelle James is an award-winning actor/writer/producer who works in film & TV.

Corinne Bourdeau is the founder and President of 360 Degree Communications, a leading boutique agency dedicated to promoting and producing social change films. 

David Ridgway has worked in the film industry since 1973 in various roles including producer, director and editor. David is the Director and Editor for the TV show “The Real Deal with Barb Marshall”. He has worked on numerous projects over the years including music videos, television shows as well as films and documentaries including “Lord of the Rings”, “Annabel Lee” and “The Musician” which have won various awards. David is on the Board of Directors for the Capital Film Arts Alliance, with over 4000 members in Northern California. He also produced two feature films due out this year, Full Circle: The Story of New Dimensions (a documentary) and Stevie and Sandi Save the Rainbow Forest (a children’s film).

Deven McNair is a professional stunt performer and actress who is known for her work on films such as 22 Jump Street, The Green Lantern, Disaster Movie, Planet of the Apes, and the Disney Channel show, JESSIE.

Don Collins has been teaching high school math, English, Financial Literacy and student support programs for 25 years in San Diego. He is an Air Force Desert Storm combat veteran with the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing. Don has sat on the Directing Change Board of Directors since 2017. Don and his husband Anthony enjoy raising their twin four-year-old boys.

Eileen Zeller, MPH, is chair of the Maryland Governor’s Commission on Suicide Prevention, serves on the board of the Mental Health Association of Maryland, and loves her semi-retirement! After a career in public health and suicide prevention, Eileen retired from the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in 2018, where she was Lead Public Health Advisor in the Suicide Prevention Branch. She provided national leadership in a variety of areas, including ensuring that SAMHSA’s suicide prevention efforts were integrated with those of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and serving on multiple advisory, policy, and implementation committees and workgroups.

Elle Alexander is the Vice President of the Stuntwomen’s Association of Motion Pictures, as well as a member of Women in Film and the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences.

James Jones Ph.D. is a psychologist with LA Mayor Garcetti’s Crisis Response Team and the Services to the Armed Forces program for the American Red Cross. His background includes acting in a variety of Shakespeare festivals, 8 years as the Lead Ringmaster for the annual Napa Valley Film Festival, and a judge for many of Ohlone College’s  High School Theater & Music Festivals. 

Jen Greenstreet is the founder, filmmaker and CEO of the women run Mid-American Emmy award-winning film production company Just Like You Films. Prosecutor turned movie producer, Jen is working to create a kinder world through the power of media one film at a time.

Jen James is the Community Success Digital Specialist and Founding Supervisor at Crisis Text Line. She’s held many prominent roles, including helping to create the remote volunteer program & training. Jen runs the important social community network for the volunteers. A place for everyone to engage, learn, and have fun. She is also a Founding Board member of NoOK App™ and the Virtual counselor for Children Youth First, in Nepal. 

Kathy Lindboe is the co-founder and CEO of Battlecry Productions, a female-led and female-driven horror film company. She is also a film, stage and commercial writer/director/producer and works with several L.A.-based non-profit organizations to help support important community issues by directing and producing social impact videos and live events to raise money and awareness.

Katie Rotolo has 10+ years in the entertainment industry and is the co-founder of the boutique production company Paper Ball Pictures, whose mission is putting the environment first while telling impactful stories. She is also the founder and yoga teacher of Set Intentions, a first-of-its-kind, mobile wellness business focused on sustainability and mindfulness.

Kiki Goshay is the producer/director of the film Not Alone,  which uses intimate teen-to-teen conversations, to engage the audience about depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicide, getting help and treating mental illness. Film is a great tool for youth to bring issues they care about to a broad audience, and Kiki’s mission has been to give kids a voice.

Kim Kline is an award winning singer-songwriter, philanthropist, entrepreneur and fashionista.  Best known for her single “Inside” which aired on MTV’s show The Hill’s.  Her current single “Stand Tall” is a bullying prevention anthem from her up and coming sophomore album.  The release of her music video “Stand Tall” which gives a universal message of hope, strength and human connectedness will debut later this year.  

Laura Carson is an actress, producer and writer with over 30 years of experience in the creative arts.  Her credits range from the stage to film and TV.  For several summers she has taught kids filmmaking at Idyllwild Arts.  Most recently, she co-founded Firefly Rev Productions and is in development on several features.

Lia Bruce worked for a Hollywood film producer as a creative executive and was the marketer of The Nonprofit Institute (NPI) at the University of San Diego. She now is getting her Masters of Science in Marketing at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. 

Linda Bergonzi-King, MPH, is a Producer/Director/Health Communication Expert and Social Entrepreneur with over 25 years of experience creating a wide range of video programs, educational tools and communications with a particular emphasis on health, well-being, social justice, edutainment, and community development. She also teaches high school and undergraduate courses on multiple topics related to health communication, interpersonal communication & media relations/literacy. Linda graduated from the Yale University School of Public Health with an emphasis on Health Communication and Health Policy. 

Marie Gallo Dyak; Emmy® Award winning producer; Produce webcasts on all facets of substance use disorders, mental health and related health issues such as concussion, trauma, diabetes, HIV, and Hepatitis C; and Co-Creator and Executive Producer, EIC’s Annual PRISM Awards Ceremony and TV Special. 

Melissa Margain is a US Army Disabled Combat Veteran who currently lives in Contra Costa County where she is a Case Manager working with the Re-Entry population in an effort to reduce the rate of recidivism.

Michael Gilvary is a writer and executive producer on the NBC drama, Chicago Fire.

Monica Nepomuceno works at the California Department of Education as an Education Programs Consultant overseeing the Mental Health Services Program. Monica is passionate about helping all school staff, including certificated and classified personnel, parents, and community members increase their knowledge and awareness of student mental health and wellness; and providing school staff with skills and resources to help students in timely, respectful, and culturally appropriate manner.

Nagin Cox is a spacecraft operations engineer currently working as a tactical mission lead for the Mars Curiosity Rover and the Mars Perseverance Rover.

Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning filmmaker and author in Southern, CA, and her projects have been featured, both, in the U.S. and internationally. In her downtime, she enjoys listening to podcasts (especially true crime), reading, taking long walks, and hanging out with her fur baby named Matty Cat.

Pepper Carlson, C.Ht. is an Emmy award nominee and 2 time gold Telly award wining Producer with a specialty in short-form live-action production and development. Carlson is also a published author and her writing antics on her blog Life with One Eye Open won her an invitation to speak at Pepperdine University. 

Pixie Monroe enjoys mentoring America’s Youth and California’s passionate Young Filmmakers who are eager to make a difference in their communities through accurate messaging in film, television and social media.

Ruben Preuss is a producer/ director with 25 years of experience in film production. For the last 9 years Ruben is a licensed psychotherapist working at Kaiser Permanente Behavioral Health.

Sally Spencer-Thomas: As a clinical psychologist, mental health advocate, faculty member, survivor of her brother’s suicide and a person who has lived through depression, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas sees the issues of mental health promotion and suicide prevention through multiple lenses. Today she uses her professional speaking platform to “elevate the conversation” and make resilience, healing and suicide prevention health and safety priorities in our schools, workplaces and communities.

Sarah Naiman: With attention for detail in visual storytelling, Sarah Naiman has been editing passionately and professionally for over ten years. She has assisted series for the CW, Discovery Channel, MTV, Netflix, HBO Max, and Youtube Originals as well as edited music videos featuring influential artists. Sarah’s career crosses platforms from development to the final edit. She specializes in documentary style storytelling fueled by her love of film, television, and music.

Shannon Jaccard, MBA: Mental health advocate and consultant. Author of “The Forgotten Survivors; a sister’s journey through her brother’s mental illness.

Tom Kline is an Executive at NBC Universal and has many years of experience working in the Entertainment Industry.

Trent Duncan is an award winning independent filmmaker, Film Festival Director, and YouTuber. Trent has created a variety of narrative short and feature films in many genres that have entertained audiences around the world. He is most notably known for his YouTube channel featuring Epic Horror Battles.

Trish Glowacki is Executive Director of the glowmedia project, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. that produces unique, free of charge, educational films addressing mental wellness and behavior health issues facing teens today.  The short films, and corresponding educational guides for Students, Parents/Guardians, and Educators represent a new approach towards educating students about mental illness, addiction, and other stigmatized issues.

2022 Through the Lens of Culture Judges

Andrea Schulz is a retired social worker, family member and peer with lived experience and her BFA in film & video production.

Ann Truong-Ong Ta is a mental health clinician who considers art as a strong tool for healing and considers herself as a fellow creative. Ann is passionate about culture and mental health and has been working in mental health for years. She is an advocate for equality and fighting mental health stigma.

Anna Allard is a Senior Business Analyst at California Mental Health Services Authority, with a background in managing local, state, and federally funded programs that support improving public mental health, identifying and addressing social determinants of health, and bettering the lives of underserved and underrepresented communities, including youth and TAY-age groups.

Carlos Lamadrid: As the Outreach & Engagement Coordinator within our Mental Health Services Act Team, I have experience working within our diverse ethnic and cultural communities for a number of years and been a judge with the Directing Change contest for about 5 years. It is an honor to see the talent and youth perspectives on social and mental health issues.

Jeff Sabean is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor who has been working in the behavioral health field for over 30 years. He is the current Administrator for the Stanislaus Recovery Center and is the Manger of Stanislaus County’s Substance Use Disorders (SUD) System of Care. Prior to managing the SUD services for Stanislaus County, he oversaw the youth substance abuse services and Juvenile Justice programs and has worked in various divisions within Stanislaus County’s Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, Children’s System of Care.

Jenn Guhl is a MHSA Program Specialist for the Tuolumne County Behavioral Health (TCBH) Department. Jenn oversees the Tuolumne County Enrichment Center, a wellness and recovery center for the local homeless population and mentally ill, represents the county during special events, community meetings, and does outreach for the center, as well as leads the May is Mental Health Awareness month activities in Tuolumne County.

Joanna Prabhu: I have a journalism degree from San Jose State, from which I graduated in 2020. I shot a short film documentary there as well about unemployment during the pandemic. I also have been involved in the mental health community since high school, co-funding an alumni organization and speaking at teen wellness conferences just as an example. At NAMI, the organization I volunteer at, they show videos about suicide prevention and mental health, and these videos come from organization and contests like this. I would be honored to choose winning films that can be passed down to organizations like NAMI to show hundreds of students a year.

John Thompson: John is a licensed clinical social worker who currently provides mental health services to young people at a school-based health center in San Francisco. He is also a DIY documentary filmmaker and activist who firmly believes in the power of art to inspire social change.

María Elizalde has been working as a clinician with Merced County Behavioral Health & Recovery Services for 9 years. She has worked with children and youth for 8 years. Her passion is to help patients process and resolve their traumas and promote mental health services.

Michelle Fortunado-Kewin, LCSW, PPS is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Jefferson Union High School District and a doctoral candidate at the University at Buffalo. She has done work in the field of suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention since 2012. One of her passion projects is focused on improving the services and supports for Filipinx

Michelle E. Carlson is a returning judge for Directing Change. “Getting to make this connection with youth all over California is a highlight of my year!” Reducing the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health challenges, continues.

Ola Jimoh: I am currently supporting youth mental health community investments and partnerships as a part of Blue Shield’s BlueSky initiative. I believe youth hold much power around the state of the world and we have much to learn from them. I would love to be a judge to further support Directing Change and witness the beauty of combining arts and advocacy.

Pamela Morris is a Professor of Applied Psychology at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and an Affiliated Professor at the NYU School of Global Public Health. An interdisciplinary scholar, Morris conducts research at the intersection of developmental psychology, suicidology, education, and policy.

Rachel Abenavoli is a Research Assistant Professor at NYU whose work focuses on social-emotional development, school-based interventions, and more recently, suicide prevention. She has been working with the Directing Change team for a little over a year to evaluate the program.

Ray Santillan: Ray Santillan is the Cultural Responsiveness Staff Development lead for the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health. Ray coordinates monthly cultural responsiveness trainings, was part of the planning committee for the Asian & Pacific Islander Mental Health Empowerment conference 2019, as well as sits as a member of the Cultural Competency Committee of Fresno County.

Ron Shaw: My 5th year serving as a Judge. Each year it is amazing to review entries that demonstrate creativity & quality content through a variety of social media platforms. I am proud to see & hear — California’s diversity of young people, sharing vibrant prevention messages throughout their cultural homes and school communities.

Ruth Cañas, LCSW has worked in the field of mental health for the past 25 years. She is the exective director of The Child and Family Development Center, a community mental health clinic in Santa Monica serving the children and families of historically underrepresented and economically disenfranchised communities.

Sheri Hanni has worked at the Butte County Office of Education for over 25 years partnering with LEA’s throughout the County to support mental health, attendance, and engagement for all; believing that student voice is one of our most valuable resources.

Sylvia Tang, MPP (She/Her/她): Committed to advancing health equity, Sylvia focuses on building coalitions that cultivate self love, community empowerment and social justice. She is a Community Health Planner at the San Mateo County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Office of Diversity and Equity. She co-chairs the Suicide Prevention Committee and Mental Health Month Planning Committees.

Tanya Mercado: I am honored to continue my support in empowering students, school communities, and families for over 20 years within public education to create a positive school climate where mental health wellness becomes part of the school culture alongside physical and nutritional wellness.

Tranh Pham: Tranh Pham (she/they) is a Graduate Student and Laurie McBride Scholar in the Counseling Program at California State University at Sacramento where they continue to educate, empower, and advocate for LGBTQ+ students and their campus community through a globally unprecedented and historic period. Tranh is excited about helping young people redefine mental health and wellness for themselves and their world.

Yurun Wu is a multicultural influenced film composer and orchestrator based in LA. His credits can be found on top Chinese box office hits like Detective Chinatown 3 (2021), Crazy Alien (2019). He is one of the main creative crew of many award-winning short films and documentaries, such as Way Out (2020) XINYAN: ONE CHILD LEFT BEHIND (2019), She Comes in Colors Everywhere (2018). Yurun is also frequently commissioned to create and produce commercial music and songs for companies like BMW, KFC, Red Bull, Tencent, etc.


2022 Animated Short Judges

Alaina Jones is an Executive Assistant for the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) with an educational background in Creative Writing and Media Studies. Alaina appreciates the therapeutic and educational power that art has in spreading mental health awareness.

Ana Marie Duarte: I am a firm believer that the educational system should provide resources to assist students in coping with their mental health.

Cindy Hicks: I have worked in the Prevention Field Since 1992 and coordinate prevention efforts and in service education on social emotional learning, Alcohol, Tobacco and other drug prevention/intervention, Vaping, Mental health issues, recognizing signs and symptoms of Suicide ideation and support for all students in PUSD schools.

Erin Bryan: I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and part of the Tulare County Suicide Prevention Task Force. I am a sounding board for our youth who have so much to express and look forward to doing this through the Directing Change Program and Film Contest.

Geovanni Cajucom is a Registered Nurse from Blue Shield of California and is very interested in watching and learning from creatively done short films.

Jenna Lane: Before joining Blue Shield of California Foundation to help achieve health equity and end domestic violence in California, Jenna Lane specialized in behavioral health communications at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She has about 20 years of experience as a professional journalist, mostly in radio.

Laith Higazin is the CSSA community service chair at The Chicago School. He has been a 3-dimensional artist for most of his life, submitting several pieces into contests, and teaching high school 3-dimensional art as a volunteer.

Lawrence Weisberg: Former Production Manager/Supervisor for Feature Animation projects including “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Bee Movie” at DreamWorks and “Wish Dragon” for Base FX/Sony, with over 20 years of entertainment experience.

Les Forster: I am a former high school administrator and have volunteered for many years for both Bring Change 2 Mind and NAMI, currently helping present Ending the Silence to school staff presentations. My former school site had the first BC2M club in Santa Cruz County and we are working toward establishing NAMI on Campus clubs beginning in the fall.

Mario Montesino: I have been a professional educator for 9 years in the areas of mental health, school psychology, behavioral supports, and family engagement. My goal is for student mental health and well-being to be treated with as high a priority as their academic needs.

Monica Nepomuceno: I have been a judge for over 6 years and am a statewide advocate for mental health.

Natalie Saragosa-Harris is a PhD student at UCLA researching brain development and mental health in adolescents.

Norma Villarreal

Paige Brogan

Rebecca Johnson: Rebecca works in non-profit mental health field in Northern California.
Soledad Gonzalezsevilla: Suicide is a vital component that is experienced at a young age and this matter needs to be introduced and discussed in order to prevent and normalize to youth and every human being so they may be more knowledgeable of the signs and know that they do not have to feel alone through the hurt. We are here to help!

Tom Norton: Not so long ago a short film gave me the hope and motivation needed to pull my life together and realize that I’m not alone.

Troy Underwood is a content executive and producer who spent the last 10 years as a Current Series Exec at Disney Television Animation overseeing, among others, Emmy-nominated Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars Resistance, Emmy-winning TRON: Uprising, as well as Star Vs. The Forces of Evil, Big City Greens, & T.O.T.S. and he is also a Governor in Television Academy for the Children’s Programming Peer Group.

Whitney Wilson, a Patient Rights Advocate in San Diego County, is excited to be a returning judge this year.

2022 Hope & Justice Judges

Amber Bundy-Davis is the Senior Manager of Talent Program and Pathway Design at Blue Shield of California. As a former Theater major, Amber appreciates how art tells stories that we may not be able to communicate in other ways. Being in healthcare now, she would like to support young artist in the efforts to tell their stories while bridging conversations that heal the world through art.

Ann-Marie Fullmore: I have been active in the performing arts my whole life, both on stage and off, behind and in front of the camera. I have a master’s degree in Counseling (Psychology) and am passionate about helping our youth!

Courtney Kimbrough: As a child & teenager my cousin & I would make our own music videos, commercials, & skits. We would host premier nights for our parents & siblings.

Divya Narayanswamy: Youth is the foundation of upcoming generation. Hearing them and helping them in anyway is exciting.

Haley Mixon: I love watching films, movies, shows, and art installations of all kinds. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the world around us through different perspectives. It keeps us informed, and hopefully, in turn, keeps us united. We need more compassion towards one another. I am grateful to partake in this opportunity, and looking forward to learning from the experience.

Kelly Leahy McKeown, M.A., LMFT, PPSC is the Director of Student Services, Counseling and Wellness at Waldorf School of the Peninsula in Mountain View, and is passionate about supporting and teaching adolescents as they navigate their journey to adulthood.

Kelly Seymour – I work for a healthcare insurer and we are continually educated on the importance of mental health wellness. I have family members and friends who suffer from mental illness and thus this awareness and ways to help others is extremely important to me not only professionally, but personally. In addition, I have volunteered for several organizations committed to the health and well-being of children including being a board member and board president for Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as being a CASA for over 3 years for four foster youth. I have personally observed the impact that life stressors can have on youth emotional wellness and believe that programs such as those from Directing Change can make a huge impact. I feel honored to be a judge for these powerful films and look forward to participating well into the future.

Linda Kelson: I am an artist specializing in oil painting, and have tried to use my art to address social and environmental issues all my life.

Lisa Schoyer has a Masters in Fine Art from California Institute of the Arts, and taught studio art for 10 years before going to work for Los Angeles County, starting in the Department of Public Health (Children’s Medical Services) for 6 years, and for the Department of Mental Health since 2009. She answered the call for jurors for this contest last year.

Lissa Thomson: I have been a judge for the past few years. I look forward to watching and judging the videos every year. Your instructions are wonderful and the videos themselves inspire me to get closer to both the issues and the opportunities.

Matthew Jones: I studied film at CSUS and graduated with a film degree.

Rosa Perez: I am both a recipient and provider of mental health services. I wish to continue doing my part to improve our communities’ mental health and share the message that ‘Tomorrow Needs You’.
Samantha Olson: I am excited to work alongside youth for the past 18 years as an advocate, school counselor, mentor and outdoor educator in the K-12 setting. I look forward to numerous more years of bringing hope and healing to schools and individuals.

Teri Vaziri: I have 20 years of Human Resources experience, with 10 of them in Healthcare, and a theatre background. I look forward to the day when mental health issues are no longer stigmatized and when the system can support the demand.

Tracy Jackson-Arenal

William Subsara: I’m excited to be a part of anything that can help kids. As a former big brother, I really feel complete when I am being a part of someone’s learning and development.

In addition, entries are also reviewed and judged by Directing Change team members Jana Sczersputowski, MPH, Shanti Bond-Martinez, MPH, and Devin Saragosa-Harris, MPH.  

2022 Walk in Our Shoes Judges

Alisa Huntington: I’ve judged several times and really enjoy seeing all of the talent!

Amanda Lasik is the BlueSky Program Manager for Blue Shield California.

Anil Prasad: Would like to see the world from todays youth perspective

Bisrat Tekie: I appreciate and value the process and brainpower that goes into an art production of any form in every context. It makes me appreciate fellow humans; it encourages me to stay engaged in the narrative of the human condition to ultimately serve better by them in real life. From an outside spectator point-of-view to the firm industry, the process requires great courage, patience, humility and vulnerability, from creating the story, exporting it to a script, and projecting it onto the screens … not to mention the complex details in between. Talent is talent, and a gift to us. It is not taken for granted.

BJ Rouse is an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, California and Chief Executive Officer of After School Arts Academy, a non-profit arts enrichment organization.

Brenda Scott is an Executive Director with NAMI Mt San Jacinto and a two-time Suicide Loss Survivor. She is a member of Riverside County Suicide Prevention Postvention Committee.

Brian Bishop has worked with media production for over 20 years and currently works with local media on Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder stories, he has been a judge for the Directing Change program for many years and has been an advocate for ending the stigma surrounding Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder.

Briana Ribota: I worked as a Deputy Public Guardian for a few years. Everyone in my case load was diagnosed with a mental health diagnosis. I had the pleasure to have met many bright and kind individuals. I always told my clients taking care of your mental health is just as important as taking care of your physical health. They both go hand in hand.

Buffy Bowers-Woods: As a School Social Worker working specifically with suicide prevention, I can’t wait for the day when all young people can openly share their truth about mental illness without shame, fear, stigma, or roadblocks to treatment.

Cathie Sowell: I have been supporting middle school students since 2007 as a history teacher and Mental Health Advocate, helping students get the support they need engage in their community.

Cathy Blackstone: I am an interested citizen in what our future generations are doing. I was a judge last year and very impressed with the creative videos that the kids have created.

Christine Mariano: Ms. Christine Mariano works in Los Angeles, supporting middle school and high school students’ mental health.

David Tijerina: I work in the field of mental health and I know how important this program is especially for young ones in our community.

Desiree Lopez is a Clinical Coordinator for the HERE Now Suicide Prevention program in San Diego County. Desiree has worked with the HERE Now team for the past 2 years to deliver preventative mental health services to K-12 youth in San Diego county.

Evie Kosower: I have worked with learners from young children to physicians as an educator and am especially interested in short films for many years, having been married to a filmmaker who made and collected them.

Felipe Flores: As the Mental Health Program Specialist, I am always interested in ways to support students and help them express themselves.

Geneva Amas: I am a mental health clinician that works with the challenges surrounding suicidality every day. I participate in judging every year as it is my hope to address mental health as inclusive and part of overall wellness in the generations to come.

Heather Rodriguez: As the current lead of our district Mental Health Team, I am extremely passionate about supporting the mental health needs of our students, their families, and our staff, in addition to my experience in the field of theater and public speaking.

Hilda Majewski: I strongly believe in the power of the student voices, the trust in relationships and the commitment in increasing access to mental health supports.

Himabindu Karepey: I love how creators bring life to small life experiences and being a judge I can see how various student creators are striving to bring change.

Ilizana Strads: I am an HR Business Partner for Blue Shield of California and support multiple organizations including our Behavioral Health team and am passionate about the importance of de-stigmatizing mental health and making care accessible to all.

Jacqueline Remo

Jami Macleod: BA in Visual Arts: Film emphasis from UCSD, work with youth of all ages and have had my life impacted by suicide.

Jayne Reinhardt: I have been working in the mental health field for many years, collaboratively with Directing Change and other organizations and outreach efforts, and have been a contest judge for several years.

Jennifer Iversen: I have been teaching for three years working with middle school students, and I want to support the destigmatization of mental health issues and open up this conversation with our students.
Jennifer Martin is a teacher candidate in the Stanislaus County. The mental health of our youth is very important to me. I hope to be better equipped to assist my future students.

Jeremiah Aja, M.A., M.Div., LPCC is the Assistant Director for the national nonprofit organization, Wellness Together School Mental Health, the Blue Shield of California BlueSky Liaison, and a Registered Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor. He has worked with youth and families since 2001 and now helps to lead a team of therapists across California and beyond partnering with school districts and universities to provide mental health services for students and educators on school campuses.

Jessica Sorensen: Video and TV producer with 12 years of experience, currently working for an advertising and public relations firm in Sacramento specializing in social change.

Juana Zaragoza: Hello! I work for the Migrant Education Office at CDE. Although largely administrative, part of my job is supporting the State Parent Advisory Council – a group composed of 1 migrant parent from each of our 20 subgrantees. Working directly with the parents, and hearing how the pandemic has affected not only their mental health, but that of their students has been eye-opening. As someone who is actively pursuing a teaching credential, I look forward to the prospect of learning more about student mental health needs through their creative process.

Kay Lund: I am a Health Educator in Plumas County at Plumas District Hospital, and was a judge last year.

Klyrisse Dosty: I enjoy and appreciate movies and movie-making and am excited for the opportunity to be able to see what these future filmmakers have in store.

Laira Andrade: Parenthood has opened my eyes in many ways, and I believe that with a solid foundation our children would not have the fear that we are not their haven. Communication is key, and as long we create that safety net and with videos such as these, we can create the safe environment, we as parents want and need.

Marcia Reily Ed. D.: Marcia Reily is a Coordinator II in the Center for Distance and Online Learning (CDOL) unit within the Curriculum and Instructional Services (CIS) Division at the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE). Marcia coordinates the LA County Suicide Prevention Ongoing Resiliency Training (SPORT) project.

Maria Rodriguez: I’m a school counselor with over 11 years of expertise and seeking to surround myself with experiences which will help me educate others about suicide.

Meredith McLendon teaches video production at James Workman Middle School in Cathedral City, California, is a huge fan of classic cinema, and loves spreading positivity wherever she goes.

Michelle Buckley: I came across this volunteer opportunity through my employer. Suicide is absolutely devastating; I love, and am encouraged by this approach to bringing awareness to our youth.

Nicole Ramirez: I am interested in being a judge for youth art/films projects; as this will help me better understand what successes and challenges young folks in Tehama County are facing.

Ramona Rogers is the Director of Special Education at Rocklin Academy Family of Schools (Placer and Sacramento counties). Ramona has experience as a school psychologist and is the current MTSS Lead for mental health and behavioral supports at Rocklin Academy.

Robert Dutile, Ph.D. serves as the Senior Vice President of Exodus Recovery’s Central Division and has worked with youth since 1996. Having four grown adult children himself, Robert understands the value of advocating for mental health services, as well as empowering the next generation of leaders, and was actively involved in youth little league and soccer.

Ryan Hardie: I’m a lifelong, strong advocate for awareness of relevant & important topics of any nature that contribute to making a positive difference.

Salvador Fernandez: I have written multiple screenplays and am familiar with storylines, 3-act structure, and character development and arc. I am also an avid film buff and I would appreciate the opportunity to support these young filmmakers in their projects and this content.

Sandy Young: I am an Inpatient Psychiatric Case Manager for Kaiser Permanente and want to do everything I can to support youth in speaking up about mental health.

Shana Duran: I work in school as a counselor and feel that suicide awareness is important. Directing Change is making students aware of this.

Shellie Swain: As a lifetime volunteer and high school mentor, participating in mental health awareness with our youth will hopefully build additional channels enabling more education and treatment opportunities. I was a judge last year and loved it!

Teresa Palomino: I am an Education Programs Consultant with the Department of Education. I have been working with migratory students for over 4 years on various capacities, but have also assisted LEAs on establishing Mental Health support services for migratory students.

Traci Barker-Ball: Traci retired after being a high school teacher and counselor for 35 years where she created the Student Services office, helping teens deal with their mental health issues.

Trish Small: I work in the schools and oversee programs involved with supporting the mental health needs of youth and suicide prevention.


2022 Regional Judges

Aaron M. Scullin has been supporting youth for over 20 years and looks forward to the day when all youth feel safe asking for help regarding mental health issues.

Abel G Esquivel: I have worked as a Licensed Mental Health Professional since 1974 and currently supervise students training as therapists for adult individuals, children and adolescents, and families providing an objective and reasoned perspective from a creative, holistic point of view.

Adam Lopez: I not only work as community liaison for my local church, but I also serve as commissioner for the city of Oxnard and sit on the Chief of police advisory board. I have been a judge in the past and truly enjoy judging video submissions from students across the state.
Alexis Martin is a recent USC Graduate from the School of Social Work, who is now working as a Mental Health Policy Associate who advocates for the implementation of mental health resources and centers for California’s youth.

Ali Borowsky is the Founder + CEO of Find Your Anchor, a grassroots movement aimed at suicide prevention, awareness, and education. With creativity and a personal touch, FYA aims to support those who may be struggling and de-stigmatize conversations surrounding suicide and mental health.

Ali Conte is a Training Supervisor at Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Los Angeles, CA and is passionate about helping individuals build greater connection within their homes, schools, and communities. A former crisis counselor volunteer, Ali now supports the Training Team in facilitating classes, mentoring new counselors, and supervising counselors on the Suicide Prevention Center’s 24/7 Crisis Line.

Amanda Lance-Sexton is an Art Therapist who believes in the use of the expressive arts as a means for healing. She is currently an administrator within the County of San Diego Behavioral Health Services where she develops and oversees programming for children and teens.

Angela Brand: As a long time supporter of the Directing Change program, I am thrilled to support students in their efforts to create awareness of mental health and wellness in their homes, schools, and communities through creative expression.

Angela Thomasson: As a survivor of suicide, I am thankful to give back to my community by promoting positivity to my community and to others who may find themselves in a similar situation. We need to know we are human, we are NOT alone in our feelings, and anxiety/depression is more common than we realize in our society today.

Angeline Yeh: I am a filmmaker and a mental health advocate looking forward to watching films related to such topics.

Anissa Sonnenburg: It would be an honor to participate as a judge for this project that lends Youth Voice and Leadership to such an important topic.

Aparna Kollipara

Dr. April Tormey is an Education Programs Consultant with the California Department of Education who served as a high school teacher and counselor for 16 years and believes mental health to be primary and foundational for learning.

Avery Cruz (she/her) is the Program Manager for To Be Honest, a program of Momentum for Health, which provides youth and young adults in Santa Clara County with creative outlets and opportunities through which they can express their emotional and mental health and normalize the conversation around these often stigmatized topics.

Avery Vilche: I am a Health Educator for Tehama County. I love Directing Change for the opportunity it gives our youth to express themselves and share their knowledge and experience with the world. I am always moved by the beautiful, creative submissions I see.

Beth Parsons is the CEO for Youth for Change and deeply cares about our youth, our community,
and has a lifelong passion for photography and videography.

Bethany Pierce

Bianca Gonzalez is a System Navigator in the Mental Health Division of the County of Napa.

Bianca participates in outreach events and educational sessions for community members to learn about mental health. Bianca is also a part of the May is Mental Health Awareness month committee for Napa County.

Brittany Ostendorf

Brittany Voelker is a school psychologist at Sweetwater Union High School District. She is passionate about suicide prevention and mental health awareness as it has touched her life personally and professionally.

Brook Price: I am a wife, mom, educator and suicide loss survivor living in San Diego, CA. A little over 4 years ago, I lost my 15 year old son to suicide. Since then I have worked to educate myself and become an advocate for mental health awareness and suicide prevention. I have become involved in Survivors of Suicide Loss San Diego, where I serve as a support group facilitator to other loss survivors. I am passionate about these issues, particularly when it comes to teenagers. I am privileged to be able to be a judge in this year’s Directing Change Film Contest.

Brooke Ramirez

Caitlyn Kelly-Kilgore: With experience volunteering as a crisis hotline counselor, Caitlyn Kilgore is working with Crisis Support Services of Alameda County to provide suicide prevention education in middle schools and high schools throughout Alameda County.

Carol McDonald: I am a Program Specialist with San Bernardino County Department f Behavioral Health and have experience in both media and cultural studies as well in the field of behavioral health coordinating mental health outreach speakers and events. Prior to my current position I have worked with youth in the nonprofit setting in afterschool programs as well as literacy intervention programs as well.

Carole Cox worked in public education for 39 as a school counselor. She believes that we need to support the critical mental health of our children like never before.

Carolyn L. Kaneko is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Program Manager for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. Carolyn manages the San Fernando Child and Family Center, a directly operated children’s clinic.

Carrie Brown: My name is Carrie Brown. I am a Youth Activities Specialist for the Bishop Indian Education Center within the Bishop Paiute Tribe. I am a mother of five amazing young adults. I enjoy working with the youth in Families in the Bishop, California service area.

Cassie Lowe: I am passionate about encouraging youth to use their voice to support, mobilize and advocate for other youth in need of accessing mental health supports!

Cherie Foraker supports and empowers students through her work as a high school counselor and advocates for mental health awareness and trauma-informed practices in schools.

Cheryl Karp Eskin is the Chief Operating Officer of Teen Line, a teen to teen hotline where teens can call, text or email another teen about anything they are struggling with.

Chris Carlay: I am a School Social Worker who who oversees mental health programming at Mt. Diablo High School’s Diablo Community Center (Wellness Center).

Chris Miller: As a mental health advocate at the local, state, and national levels, I am honored to be a part of the judging team for the wonderful Directing Change program.

Christian Zambrano: As a training supervisor for the Suicide Prevention Center in Los Angeles, I have worked with and trained passionate individuals to help destigmatize mental health issues, support people in emotional crisis, and reshape how we think about staying present in our every-day interactions with others.

Christie Miles: Widowed survivor of suicide loss

Christina Dale has been supporting the Directing Change program since its beginning and is passionate about this annual event. The creativity and depth of feelings in the video submissions is inspiring and provides one clear message in many voices to not give up on life. “Never never never give up.” – Winston Churchill

Christine Chai: I’m very interested in film and TV due to my household’s work in the entertainment industry producing award-winning television shows and promoting diverse and unique voices on screen.

Christopher McCracken: My agency works on the San Diego Suicide Prevention Council and I am a huge film geek and minored in film studies in college.

Clifton Davis, Jr.: When an opportunity is provided where I can give advice and wisdom regarding mental health, I will. The age group of 12-24, many challenges within school, peers and external interactions is where good and healthy self-esteem choices are needed.

Cristina Rita: Is the Community Education Program Coordinator for Crisis Support Services of Alameda County. Cristina develops training curriculum on suicide assessment and intervention for various populations throughout Alameda County.

Cynthia Pancer: I’m a Professor of education, teacher of teachers, advocate for the wellness of all children and working to reduce the youth suicide rate in California to 0.

Cynthia Reynoso is a License Clinical Social Worker and been working in the medical setting/emergency room for 20 years. During every shift the team encounter mental health and substance use patients seeking assistance. We need additional resources available since we have la high number of patients willing to seek treatment. As a culture we should be ready to help those who are in need of these services.

Cynthia Robertson: QPR trainer and mental health advocate in San Diego County.

Cynthia Soares: I am a school counselor and principal of a K-12 charter school. I work with “at-promise” youth who this material impacts their lives. Helps keep it real.

Daniel E. Kennedy: Daniel E. Kennedy produces films promoting physical and mental wellness, including the award-winning “Living Through It,” a suicide documentary.

Daniel Vanwaus

Danielle Segal: I am a social worker. I am passionate about ending suicide in my professional and personal life. I currently work with the unhoused in Truckee, CA. I also organize an annual Hike for Hope through AFSP. Looking forward to being a judge again!

Darcy Sawatzki, MA, leads public health communications work for Evoke KYNE including campaigns to support youth mental health.

Darleana McHenry: I think it is important to give youth a voice.

Dave Jones is a suicide loss survivor who speaks to philanthropic and civic groups, using his compelling personal story to change how they look at Mental Health.

David Ridgway: Board member for the CFAA (Capital Film Arts Alliance), I’ve been a film maker since 1974, award winning Director, worked 8 years in Hollywood in post production and have mentored youth in the craft of film making.

Debbie Olsen: As an aspiring secondary teacher, I value the mission of Directing Change and wholeheartedly support the mental health education of our youth.

Dena Abramson Babb has been working with and advocating children, youth, and families in the non-profit and religious sectors for 25 years. She is also a parent to a teenager living with and learning to thrive with depression and anxiety.

Devin Bruce: For the past five years I have worked with at-risk youth teaching photography, photojournalism and documentary filmmaking as a Career Technical Education teacher in an independent study high school setting and encourage youth to share their experiences and feelings through the power of visual communication.

Diane Lampe: I am a retired school counselor/student support center coordinator and I continue to advocate for student mental health awareness and school based services.

Divya Narayanswamy: Youth is the foundation of upcoming generation. Hearing them and helping them in anyway is exciting.

Elizabeth Mondragon, Psy.D.: Dr. Mondragon is a Licensed Psychologist with almost 20 years experience working in mental health. For the past 16 years Dr. Mondragon has been at University of California, Riverside, Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and is the Director of the department. Dr. Mondragon is passionate about increasing understanding about and access to mental health and support services; decreasing stigma around help-seeking; and specifically interested in supporting the needs of underserved minority and BIPOC youth.

Ellen Murphy: Work as a school psychologist statewide in CA

Evelyn Ortega

Farheen Saleem is a Program Manager at Blue Shield of California. Farheen has a keen interest in growing her knowledge about the field of mental health and raising awareness through volunteer work and community involvement.

Felicity Vera: I am the Area Director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention San Diego chapter. I have a background in Community Health Education and work to provide suicide prevention resources and education and plan community events in the San Diego community; through my work, I also promote research and advocacy efforts both locally and state-wide.

Frank Navarro: I am blessed and honored to have been part of “Directing Change” in various capacities for over 5 years and have enjoyed viewing the work of our students, that it brings me joy to once again be part of the judging for this event which focuses on bringing awareness to mental health and reassuring that “you are not alone”.

Grace Park, MSW is a social worker by training with an undergraduate degree in Film Studies. She has worked in higher education and understands the impact personal and environmental factors have on the mental wellness of students. This will be her 10th year as a judge.

Graham Wiseman co-founded BeingwellCA after the loss of his son to suicide, his non-profit dedicated to improving student mental health in our state and beyond.

Greg Damewood: A family member died by suicide and my adult child is developmentally disabled, so I believe my life experiences lends to helping with this project along with my life’s work of advocacy having volunteered with mental health for 20 years and achieving a Commissioner appointment.

Harry Stark: Over 20 years as a psychologist, working with people dealing with various psychological issues, gives me both perspective and investment in advancing awareness and support for all people experiencing mental health stress.

Heather Hale: I work in Instructional Design for Blue Shield of California so I love to see the creativity of the students in their films. I am also a Mother and Grandmother so I am very grateful that this opportunity is available for them as an outlet!

Heather Hultgren: I am the founder of the EUSD Film Guild teaching students and teachers how to use film in the classroom and then also I host an after school film programs.

Henry Lee

Hilva Chan directs state-level mental health projects and has been working to address and promote youth wellness for over 25 years.

Himabindu Karepey: I love how creators bring life to small life experiences, and being a judge I can see how various student creators are striving to bring change.

Howard Somers: We are interested because of the loss of our son to severe mental anguish. Since then we have been directly involved in the area of military and veteran mental health, and the need to educate our youth to speak freely when experiencing psychological trauma.

Huma Javed: Looking forward to contributing to an impactful organization that contributes to our youth!

Jackie Collins is an Entertainment & Media talent who works camera as an actress and journalist and behind the scenes with producers, talent reps and television making productions happen,

Jacob Boyle: After receiving my doctorate in counseling psychology, I have commit myself to serving our community in Butte county through my clinical work at Oroville hospital and role as the vice chair of the butte county behavioral health advisory board.

James Chance: I’ve worked as a photojournalist for the media TV news stations for over 27 years. CBS NBC ABC AND UNIVISION. Now I teach tv broadcasting. Filming and editing.

James Coomes is the program manager of the Olive View Community Mental Health Urgent Care Center, a program of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and located in the San Fernando Valley, and is also a member of Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Network.

Jim Wainwright is a full-time mental health professional working with youth, families, and adults. He trains on suicide prevention, safety planning and crisis intervention. He is also a part-time community college instructor helping to shape the nest generation of mental health workers and addiction/recovery counselors.

Jamie Moran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice in San Francisco. He has worked for many years in hospital and other health care settings and currently is on the Faculty of the Group Therapy Training Program in Berkeley, CA.

Janet Borrus is a professional actor and writer, and has also taught theatre, film and English for the LA Unified School District and nonprofit arts organizations. She co-wrote and associate produced the feature film Bellyfruit with Michael Peña, which explores the challenges of three teen mothers and the men in their lives. Janet also wrote the original play on which the film was based, the solo play The Ramona Roses and several other award-winning screenplays. She performs on stage, film and television and can also be heard voicing characters in commercials and narrative podcasts.

Janet A. Schmidt, Ph.D.: A licensed psychologist, for over 30 years I have worked in higher education as a professor, therapist and administrator helping young adults achieve academically and develop emotionally by means of teaching, mentoring and providing personal counseling.

Jas Nihalani: I have two teenagers of my own and know that mental health in this age group is a very important topic. So excited to watch these films!

Jeanette Cruz

Jeff Gomez, CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, has leveraged his own neurodiversity to become one of the world’s top experts in transmedia storytelling and the development of popular franchise universes, having worked on Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, Halo, Transformers, and Ultraman.

Jeff Van Ausdall: Shasta County Behavioral Health Epidemiologist and Youth worker for over 20 years

Jennifer Aubrey is the director of The Center for Integration, a nonprofit community mental wellness center focused on fostering community resiliency through the Art of Connection, Education and Treatment with trauma informed education and care, economic sustainability, public health and social justice.

Jenn Carson is the Crisis Line Supervisor for the Inland SoCal Crisis Helpline at Inland SoCal United Way, a former School Counselor, and a Board Member at the American Association of Suicidology.

Jennifer Johal, MPH, CHES: I am a community education trainer at Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, where I lead workshops on suicide prevention and other mental health topics.

Jessica Albere: I manage mental health programs at Blue Shield of California and love to empower future generations to speak more openly about their challenges and successes.

Jessica Oakes is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Credentialed School Psychologist, who specializes in supporting at-risk youth.

Jessica Wood: Marriage and Family Therapist with 14 years experience in county mental health with adults with serious mental health symptoms and impairments.

Jessica Gonzalez-Arias

Jill Newman: Jill Newman is a Program Coordinator for the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services Suicide Prevention Center. Jill oversees the crisis line with counselors that are both volunteers and staff. Thousands of callers and chatters are helped daily due to the efforts of the staff and volunteers.

Jody Shephard: Jody has been a licensed MFT for almost 40 years in many different mental health capacities; and currently works on the San Diego Access and Crisis Line as a clinician.

Joey Holland: I worked with adults with developmental disabilities for for over 16 years. I currently work for the 211 information and resource hotline via the Inland SoCal United Way. I also assist with training for the Riverside Crisis Helpline 951686HELP. I empower others to self care and seek assistance for any mental health concerns.

John Dent has been advising media for the past 15 years at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, CA. His teams have won regional and national awards for their videos and publications. John loves to help his students become journalists and story tellers using a visual medium.

Jose Luis Aguirre is a Journalist with a Master’s degree in photography. He has 15 years of experience in filmmaking and storytelling. As manager of a community program (CARON) from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office he has been involved with the Mental Health Awareness Month activities for the last 10 years.

Joseline Franco is a Research Specialist II with Riverside County’s Epidemiology and Evaluation Department, where she serves as a co-chair on the Suicide Prevention Coalition’s and focusing on effective ways to share suicide related data.

Joseph De Los Santos is an aspiring healthcare executive who is passionate about finding innovative ways to improve the patient experience, equity, healthcare delivery and quality of care. He currently works as a Payment Innovation Program Manager at Blue Shield of California to find ways to improve the quality of care in partnership with providers.

Judith Thomas: A close friend of mine died by suicide and I believe participating in this program is worthwhile and meaningful to help someone else not go through the same loss I have.

Kailey Karonis: Mental health awareness is extremely important to me and I want to help students live a fulfilling life.

Karen Crouch, employee of The UPS Store, Inc. in San Diego, has participated in this program as a judge for the last five years and is honored to do so again.

Kelly Stern

Kendra Boyce: Kendra Boyce works with Lake County Behavioral Health Services as a MHSA Prevention Specialist. Kendra helps coordinate outreach and education efforts as well as leads the Mental Health Matters Awareness month activities and community event in Lake County.

Kong Vang: Hi my name is Kong Vang. I help oversee/produce educational content to inform/educate community about Mental Health, Stigma Reduction, SUD, Access & Linkage, and etc. in the Prevention Services Division of Stanislaus County BHRS. I also have a passionate personal background in filmmaking, videography, photography, and visual arts(etc.).

Kristen Batchelder has worked with youth for over twenty years, and has been doing work in suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and stigma reduction for the last eight. She feels strongly that empowering youth and increasing protective factors for them are essential to the health and well-being of the community.

Kristian Castro is the Administrative Coordinator in the City of Long Beach’s Health Department. He manages contracts and grants that support the provision of housing, outreach, and supportive services that work to address homelessness in the community.

Kyla Vela

LaDay Smith: LaDay Smith, Director of Student Services for Oro Grande School District has been a member of the Crisis Response Network, trained through LivingWorks Start and in Mental Health First Aid from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing along with fostering a strong partnership with CareSolace

Lana Frausto: I am with the Department of Mental Health, San Bernardino County. As Community Outreach and Education coordinator, I have coordinated Directing Change campaign for the past few years. Our participation as a county has increased significantly over the years and we are proud to be part of Each Mind Matters effort to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health!

Laura Fox

Leah Brooks is a licensed clinical social worker with a passion for mental health education and suicide prevention.

Leeane Knighton: I just completed the Youth Mental Health First Aid training and recommend it to anyone (including parents and caregivers)!

Lindsay Heuer: Lindsay coordinates suicide prevention outreach and education efforts in Shasta County. She is happy to support such an innovative project, and is excited to see the growing interest in her region from talented young artists.

Dr. Lynnā McPhatter Harris (she/her)

Lynne Ashbeck: I have been a long-time advocate for improving the mental health systems of care for children, for our community and for the State, including six years of service on the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC) with two terms as the Chairperson.

Madalyn Brion-Reed: Madalyn has been a counselor in CVUSD for 15 years and has been a judge for Directing Change for the past 3 years. She is an advocate for suicide awareness and believes in the power that students have to influence and impact their peers.

Magdalena Garcia: I have been an advocate for suicide prevention since 2010. My 23 year-old nephew died by suicide in July of that year. Since then I have made it my personal mission to amplify what I know about youth suicide. I know that it is the number one preventable death for youth 13-26. My contribution to educating and removing the stigma of suicide is volunteering with a focus on youth awareness. I am honored to view these submissions!

Magdalena Victoria Leon-Bianchi: It’s important to me I am grateful as a mentor and a healthcare provider to do the best job I can do!

Marcel Harris is the Project Manager for CA4Health and Center for Wellness and Nutrition, programs of the Public Health Institute. Marcel has coordinated various advocacy days around access to mental health services utilizing lived experience to inform policy change.

Marcia Robertson: I am in the film music industry. I am also a 2 time felon, a certified engineer protools, logic I read write and play music. I have been in several plays and rehearsing for a part in 72hrs. I teach young adults how to do music and tutor them in their academics.Working on GED preparation and testing

Dr. Margaret A Sedor, School Psychologist serves as the District Suicide Prevention and Well-being Coordinator within the Sweetwater Union High School District. Dr Sedor is a national speaker with expertise in systemic transformation of MTSS framework for mental health, social emotional learning, well-being, school crisis response, and Suicide Prevention, Intervention, and Postvention. The collective experience of educators, families, students and community partnership is crucial in advocating ame fostering educational environments which ensure the equity for the psychological and physical safety of all students.

Maria Alfaro is the Administrative Services Officer for Riverside University Health System. I oversee the Health Coach Program for juniors, seniors and recent college graduates that are seeking professions in Medicine.

Maria Chairez: I am deeply committed to helping youth in crisis get resources to address their needs. By being involved as a Judge I can do my part to help create media tools to real all youth. My role as a principal helps me understand the needs of today’s youth.

Maria Pagador is a Human Services Program Planner for the Sacramento County Department of Health Services, Division of Behavioral Health Services.

Marilyn Lucey is the Community Engagement Chair and Youth Internship Advisor for PFLAG San Ramon Valley, an Arts Advocate, former Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Chair for a state child advocacy nonprofit, oversees education, health, mental health, and arts policy areas for her legislative district office as well as directs the legislative office’s internship program. She continues to center equity and belonging in her professional and community pursuits.

Mark Morlan: I work as a Mental Health Rehab Specialist facilitating groups and helping build vision for a prosperous future. I had a film making class in high school. I traveled up to 400-miles to film scenes with Super-8mm film. I received a College Scholarship from my films.

Markov Manalo is the Peer Outreach Specialist for the Consumer Center for Health Education and Advocacy (CCHEA). Markov has facilitated peer trainings throughout the county, state and country, and now contacts agencies and individuals about the resources and services available from CCHEA and the Legal Aid Society of San Diego.

Marval A Rex is a LA- based transmasculine, first-generation American actor, director, artist and cultural producer.

Mary Figueroa has advocated on a county and national level the needs of mental health issues, especially involving students in higher education.

Mary Gaukel Forster: As a former high school principal and an Ending the Silence for Staff presenter, I deeply believe in the power of student created messages supporting mental health and am honored to be able to review and judge the Directing the Change entries.

Michael Mos: I have been working with the local high schools in our County for the past five years and our team works very hard to improve the lives of youth by reducing stigma and helping them to realize that they are not alone.

Michele Meisch: I have over 25 years in the advertising and marketing industry and currently work for a marketing agency that works with private and government clients to produce videos. I have my MBA in Marketing and am a former instructor at both University of Phoenix and Fresno State. I am currently the chair of the Alumni Association at Fresno State where we work to support existing and alumni from Fresno State.

Michelle Downs, LMFT: Michelle Downs is a Staff Development Officer in the Prevention and Early Intervention unit at Riverside University Health System Department of Behavioral Health (RUHS-BH). Michelle is part of the coordinating team that leads May is Mental Health Awareness Month, September is Suicide Prevention activities, and other outreach and educational efforts in the community to reduce stigma on mental health and prevent suicide.

Michelle Ramsey: I am digital video content provider working with 9-12 students

Minda Harts is a Workplace and Equity Consultant. She is also the bestselling and award-winning author of The Memo and Right Within. Her third book, You Are More Than Magic for Young Adults, will be released in the Spring of 2022. Minda is a Professor at NYU Wagner. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC and featured on ABC News, Forbes, Fast Company, and Time Magazine. Minda is a highly sought-after speaker for companies such as Liberty Mutual, American Family Insurance, Nike, Google, and Salesforce. In 2020, she was named the Top Voice for Equity in the Workplace by Linkedin.

Monica Moreno: To be able to see firsthand of the experiences of what these kids go through.

Moses Farrow has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years as a therapist serving the underprivileged, marginalized and survivorship populations. He is the founder of the #truthislouder social media movement focused on saving adoptee lives from adoption trafficking and raising awareness of the suicide crisis among adopted youth and young adults.

Muttika Chaturabul: Tika has been empowering youth to pursue higher education for 16 years through college preparation mentorship programming.

Nakeya Fields, LCSW is a community leader and mental health advocate and entrepreneur that is currently filming a documentary-series entitled Black Mental Health: Changing the Narrative. She is also the Chair of the Black Mental Health Task Force and registered play therapist that has a strong interest in supporting youth. Nakeya feels it is important to use innovative methods to outreach about and destigmatize talking about mental illness.

Nancy Doi: I am a practicing Psychologist that loves working with teenagers and the arts. I like to encourage expression of emotion in any form available and I see Directing Change as an opportunity for adolescents to showcase their subjects through an easily accessible medium. I look forward to seeing the creative process unfold across a wide spectrum of issues and finding new ways to communicate with our youth so they can have their say.

Natalia Lax is a freelance Production Manager in the commercial & branded content space. She has worked on several campaigns focused on youth mental health awareness.

Natasha Ellis: Natasha Ellis is a Theatre actress, contributor of Project Semicolon book , Certified Mental health & Addiction Specialist , and Certified Laughter yoga Teacher. She is passionate about raising mental health awareness and promoting hope, wellness & recovery as a person in long term recovery from mental health diagnosis as well. Natasha has worked with youth starting out in her service in the domestic peace corp in her youth and recently with her work with NAMI and the Trevor project supporting LGBT youth who are battling crisis and suicidal ideations.

Nateno Moreno: I believe in helping our youths and to understand what they are going through, to properly understand how we can help.

Nathan Lichtman: Training and recruiting counselors for the state’s largest crisis line, I always love to see what the students are coming up with for their videos.

Nicole Stelter

Nicole Wallace Leicht

Nora Mays: Substance Use Disorder Prevention Specialist and Mental Health First Aid Instructor for El Dorado County Behavioral Health.

Norman Cohen: As a former professional photographer and as a parent of teens, I see it as vitally important to be present in the lives of teens and open to understanding the coping challenges many teens face as they navigate their current social settings and stare across the threshold into adulthood, whether through dialog or the visual arts.

Olga Jurado: Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Educating, Empowering and proving a listening ear is key in removing the stigma and preventing suicide. The power is in our hands.

Otto Wahl: I have written, spoken, taught, and done research on stigma and stigma reduction for over 40 years.

Pam Washington

Pamela Jones: I have worked in the mental health field for sixteen years and realize the films are a way to reduce the stigma of mental health.

Patricia Esparza: As a Clinical Psychologist working for a substance use and mental health care agency, I am interested in supporting creative ways for our youth to better understand and be involved in a public conversation about mental health and suicide.

Paul Baum: I have had the honor to be a judge in the past. I have worked with children and youth as a Clinical Therapist the past 4.5 years, including 2 years in Graduate school, MSW.

Paula Hall is the Vice President of the Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees. Paula has served as a trustee of the largest secondary school district in California since elected in 2014. Her strong advocacy to destigmatize mental health by investing needed resources has resulted in viable support programs for students and families. The SUHSD district has established a mental health outpatient clinic including a lead licensed mental health clinician, expanded multi-tiered systems of supports, established student success teams, increased the number of school psychologists, counselors and mental health clinicians, and created family and community resource centers which are hubs to serve students and their families. Trustee Hall has served on the HHSA Suicide Prevention Council – Education Subcommittee for several years and is proud of the progress of the work of Directing Change and its impact across our state and nation to equip youth with the resources and ability to recognize the signs of someone in need and the power to save the lives of friends and families in their community.

Phillip Ruehl

Phrani Diksa was delighted to judge last year. I am a Wellness Counselor for a public school high school. I am also a co-teacher for a Peer Assistance class and an advisor for a club – BC2M (Bring Change 2 Mind) – a club originally developed Nation-wide, to reduce the stigma of mental illnesses.

Pierre Scott: I have helped lead our local Direction Change Contest for Riverside County and enjoy seeing the amazing talent that is produced to address the important issues of Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Stigma Reduction.

Priscilla Gouveia: Directing Change is an opportunity for the youth to fight the stigma of Mental Health through art and I am happy to be part of an important cause.

Rebecca Bray: With a degree in Film and Television, Rebecca Bray was formally a Casting Director completing projects with Warner Bros, HBO, CBS, and many others, before going back to school, getting a Masters in Educational Counseling and becoming a High School Counselor.

Rebecca Zeitlin joined Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in 2007 as a Volunteer Suicide Prevention Counselor and since then has become a Shift Supervisor, Program Coordinator and is currently the Assistant Program Director for the 24-Hour Crisis Line. As Assistant Program Director, Rebecca provides direct supervision of Program Coordinators, Shift Supervisors and Crisis Line Counselors and oversees the daily operations of the crisis line. A large part of Rebecca’s duties include representing the agency, interfacing with related community agencies and local colleges, attending meetings with the Department of Social Services and participating in various outreach events. Being part of the Suicide Crisis Line for over 10 years, Rebecca is now a Master Trainer in ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) and plays a large role in providing training for new Volunteer Crisis Counselors. Additionally, Rebecca is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and facilitates Survivors of Suicide Attempts support groups along with seeing individual clients.

Rebekah Lee is a Program Manager on the Payment Innovation team at Blue Shield of California.

Rhiannon Shires: I am a Clinical Psychologist. Commissioner for Mental Health Commission.

Rick Newmyer, Senior Lecturer with the USC Suzanne-Dworak Peck School of Social Work, has over 20 years experience developing and administering programs for children, youth, and families.

Robyn Gantsweg is the Peer Self-Advocacy Program Manager at Disability Rights California since. As a person with lived experience, she is passionate and always on the lookout for creative ways to eliminate mental health stigma and discrimination.

Roderick Allen

Rosalba Aguilera-Longoria is a Prevention Specialist at a high school in the Palm Springs School District (PSUSD). Rosalba works with students in areas of substance abuse, goal setting, attendance and supports students with emotional-related issues.

Dr. Rose Bomentre was formerly the Director of Student Wellness and Support Services for San Bernardino City Unified School District. In her current position as an Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, she developed a mental and behavioral health career pathway for high schoolers in which they will be certified in teen Mental Health First Aid and earn 10 high school credits yearlong learning social emotional skills, restorative practices, teen mental health first aid skills, how to develop school-based health services, etc. Health, wellness, and safety have always been a priority for her 30-year journey in various positions in education (i.e., high school principal, School Counselor, and Teacher).

Rupa Doshi

Ryan Troike: I am a veteran with over 7 years of service and have been around and helped others throughout my career in the military with certain mental issues along with going through numerous trainings regarding suicide prevention and signs to look out for and to ensure to ask questions and not ignore these signs.

Saffy Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker for the states of Florida and California and has worked in social work for the last ten years. She currently works for Blue Shield of California.

Samantha Soto: I am an LCSW with experience with mental health, suicide awareness, trauma, and the juvenile justice system. I have worked extensively with adolescents, as well as adults that are recovering from childhood adverse experiences and traumas. I love the honestly and creativity that youth possess and the impact they can have in bringing change!
Sandra Ekman: To be Fair is the best way to live… Live Love Laugh to be healthy.

Sandra Griffin

Sandy Nelson: For many years I’ve worked on designing materials that talk about mental health issues. I think it’s important to let people know that it’s okay to reach out for help, and that it’s okay to let your friends or family know that you are there to listen or offer support.

Sara Geierstanger is a School Health Services Evaluator at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. Her primary focus is on the impact of school health services on health care access and client and student outcomes.

Sarah Keeney is a Community Educator with Crisis Support Services of Alameda County and focuses on suicide prevention through increasing understanding and decreasing stigma.

Sean Maulding: I truly believe in the power of creativity for fostering hope and inspiring solutions and want to continue being part of this competition whose call is for folks to do just that.

Shanelle Abeywardene: Hello everyone, I am currently a graduate student working toward my doctorate in psychology and working as a psychological assistant. I have always enjoyed film and art, and believe it is a great tool to spread meaningful messages within the community. I look forward to returning as a judge this year!

Shashank Joshi: I am a Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford, father, spouse, and Santa Clara Co. community member— and have been an actor my entire life. I work at the interface of school mental health, suicide prevention and cultural issues in medicine. It would be an honor to join the panel of judges

Dr. Sheila Wu is the Director of Asian Pacific Counseling and Treatment Centers and a licensed psychologist working in LA and Riverside counties. Dr. Wu specializes in working with children, youth, and families. She and her colleagues have produced several PSAs in various API languages to promote mental health awareness and emotional well-being.

Shelby Frisby: I have been working with students for over 5 years now, and feel that this time is the time where there can be a change in the way people work through mental health and process the roots of it.

Sheri Stevens-Parker: I am an advocate for mental wellness and I have a strong desire to see a decrease in mental health health stigma in communities of color.

Susan Abito is the Volunteer Services Coordinator for the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health – Workforce Education and Training for over 10 years. Susan enjoys working with the youth and promoting careers in the mental health field.

Tamora McFadden: I’m a 20+ year educator who also sings; plays drums; writes poetry; creates videos; and, once started a Poetry Club on campus along with the school counselor, as an outlet for at risk youth.

Terrie Hawthorne, MSW is a Counselor & Coordinator of the Workforce Preparation Department & CalWORKs program at Moreno Valley College dedicated to improving the mental health of others. I enjoy innovative ways to assist people in expressing trapped feelings & connecting past experience for understanding and relief I love being a part of this project to bring awareness, increase support and reduce stigma and shame.

Tiffanee Daniels

Tiffany Lighter: As a medical social worker who has a school-aged son who has experienced bullying, I feel it is highly necessary to have this information available to the public to let those who suffer from mental health illness know that there is a support system and resources available.

Tika Charutabul

Tom Buratovich: I have worked with the homeless and at-risk youth all of with
suffer from Mental challenges and have a good eye from film and how effectively it communicates the message implicitly and explicitly it seeks to convey. I welcome the privilege.

Toni Freitas

Tracie Andrews is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Lewis-Clark State College and her Masters in Social Work from Aurora University. Tracie has worked in a variety of settings and has extensive knowledge working with underserved children, adults, and families and disenfranchised communities. She has expertise in early childhood mental health, community violence, crisis services, and school-based services. In her role as a Mental Health Clinical Supervisor with the Prevention and Outcomes Division – Family and Community Partnerships Unit, Tracie is the lead for Anti-Stigma, Suicide Prevention, and Health Neighborhoods. She also currently serves as Co-Chair for the Los Angeles County Suicide Prevention Network (LASPN).
Tracy Spitz: Tracy is the Administrator for the Antelope Valley Union High School District’s Educationally Related Intensive Counseling Program. She is an advocate for student mental health and a returning Directing Change judge.

Tristan Siebold: I am a mental health advocate and Transitional Age Youth Coordinator at NAMI Contra Costa, and I am here to support our immensely creative youth in finding ways to end the stigma against mental health conditions and to promote suicide prevention.

Vera Calloway: Vera Calloway advocates in support of holistic solutions to behavioral health issues and houslessness through increasing the role of the Peer Specialist workforce throughout California.

Veronica Scarpelli has been an advocate and educator in suicide prevention, intervention and postvention since 2005, after losing her husband to suicide in 2002 and becoming part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Didi Hirsch, SAMHSA communities, serving millions of people throughout the state California, as well as throughout the United States.

Vickie Merk: I am the adoptive mother of an at-risk youth. Together, my son and I have walked through mental health challenges and the stigma associated with mental illness.

Vidhya Mohan: Have judged speech and debate competitions for my kid’s school team.

Vince Carbino: I have reviewed and approved student presentations as principal on various sensitive subjects and had to balance info with also ensuring safeguards, and aligned to best practices. I am interested as I believe that getting info out in a manner following best practices can lessen stigmatization and increases access for students needing services.

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)
Directing Change is part of 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.
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