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Riverside County Youth Triumph

By William Redman
Community Writer
05/29/2024 at 11:25 AM

Riverside County’s brightest young filmmakers were celebrated at the annual Directing Change Film Contest at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside.  

The May 16 event, hosted by Riverside University Health System's Behavioral Health and Public Health departments and the Riverside County Office of Education, showcased the powerful voices of youth dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and suicide prevention. 

This year, 580 youth from 26 schools and youth-based organizations across Riverside County submitted over 200 films. The contest invited participants to create 30- to 60-second films addressing critical mental health issues, fostering community dialogue, and promoting awareness and advocacy. 

The winners received trophies and cash prizes up to $1,000, recognizing their outstanding contributions to mental health awareness and suicide prevention. These awards celebrate the creativity and dedication of young filmmakers in addressing critical issues through their work. 

This year’s winners were: 

Suicide Prevention Nominees

  • First Place: "Speaking Up" – Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Eastvale

Filmmakers: Kaden Ammara, Kristopher Saucedo, Jayden Johns, Gewelle Grim

Advisor: Jacob Fuller


  • Second Place: "Voices"– Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Eastvale

Filmmakers: El Friedhof, Amber Frewing, Jenna Norris, Nathaly Mora

Advisor: Jacob Fuller


  • Third Place: "Breaking the Silence"– Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Eastvale

Filmmakers: Hyrum Smith, Brock Molina, Baetale Ayano, Mattew Tapia

Advisor: Jacob Fuller


Through the Lens of Culture Nominees

  • First Place: "Cleanse Your Mind" – Hillcrest High School, Riverside

Filmmaker: Viviana Monroy

Advisor: Amy Leulu


  • Second Place: "The Culture of Unity" – UC Riverside/Coachella Valley Free Clinic, Coachella

Filmmakers: Sanaz Mirza, Diane Hashem, Kamron Sherafat, Lessly Tapia Torres, Anjali Palikhey

Advisor: Dr. Ann Cheney


  • Third Place: "Mi Querido Bello" – Valley View High School, Moreno Valley

Filmmakers: Angelica Muñoz, Aaliyah Duran

Advisor: Chris Lorenz


Mental Health Matters Nominees

  • First Place: "Paint Your Own Picture" – Great Oak High School, Temecula

Filmmakers: Elizabeth Bujas, Alaura Francis, Mila Peralta, Nicole Lacey

Advisor: Andrew Huff


  • Second Place: "YOU MATTER" – Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Riverside

Filmmakers: Zach Halama, Anthony Guerrero, Alfonso Garcia

Advisor: Jamal Gerren


  • Third Place: "Emergence" – Ramona High School, Riverside

Filmmakers: Juliet Tilden, Cassandra Macedonio

Advisor: Dacy Nottingham


Hope & Justice Nominees

  • First Place: "The First Thing I Do When I Get Home" – Landmark Middle School, Moreno Valley

Filmmaker: River Reyes

Advisor: Vanessa Hoang


  • Second Place: "Rox" – Temecula Valley High School, Temecula

Filmmakers: Hunter Shelton, Cole Elas, Chase Scorsone

Advisor: Kimberly Randall


  • Third Place: "ME" – Heritage High School, Menifee

Filmmaker: Daniel Gonzalez

Advisor: Nicholis Kalantar


Animated Short Nominees

  • First Place: "Silent Gaze" – Heritage High School, Menifee

Filmmaker: Anna Pham

Advisor: Nicholis Kalantar


  • Second Place: "Notice the Signs" – Rancho Mirage High School, Rancho Mirage

Filmmaker: Emelie Velasco

Advisor: Melissa Cassady


  • Third Place: "Parents" – Palm Desert Charter Middle School, Palm Desert

Filmmakers: Atousa Kamouie, Bella Arias

Advisor: Wesley Williams


All video submissions and photos from the event can be found at the following link: RCOE Directing Change

About Directing Change 

The Directing Change Program & Film Contest is part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement. By encouraging youth to create short films on mental health and suicide prevention, the program fosters awareness, education, and advocacy efforts statewide. Participants learn to recognize warning signs, respond to distress, and promote mental wellness, helping students understand and engage with these critical topics.


For more information about the Directing Change Program, visit