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Films by South Whittier students advance to contest finals

SOUTH WHITTIER – South Whittier’s Graves Middle School students have been recognized as finalists for a statewide film contest through the Directing Change Program by creating 1-minute public service announcements regarding mental health.

Fifteen films created by middle school students out of hundreds that were submitted statewide have been selected for final judging. Out of the 15 selected, five of those films are created by Graves Middle School students.

“I was pleased when I read that one of our films made it to final judging,” Graves Counselor, Charlene Fravien, stated. “Then we were told that 5 made it and I screamed over the phone with my colleague Carmen Sears [GMS Counselor]!”

Graves Middle School Counselor, Charlene Fravien, led a collaboration between 50 Graves Middle School students in Journalism and Spanish elective classes. The collaboration also included their teachers, representatives from the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), and Directing Change to enter the film contest. Middle school students are participating in the program’s Walk In Our Shoes category. 

Students worked on this project for two months creating a video with the purpose of eliminating mental health stigma and learning about suicide prevention factors. These students wrote, acted, filmed, and edited their 1-minute videos with the support of their teachers.

“The subject matter was very heavy,” Fravien shared. “The students had to balance their personal feelings and possible experiences with the technical aspect of creating their PSA’s, which at times was difficult. As the project progressed, they learned to weigh the heavy content with the technical, and sometimes fun, aspects – considering camera angles, lighting, music selection, voiceovers, etc. They took ownership of their films. It was a joy to see!”

The final 15 films will be viewed by a panel of judges who will decide on the winning films. First prize is $500 to support suicide prevention and mental health awareness programs and activities at their school, second prize is $250, and third is $250. 

“I am so impressed by the videos that our scholars made,” Graves principal, Dr. Trena Salcedo-Gonzalez, shared. “It touched my heart and showed the empathy and concern that our community has for those in need. It is an honor to know that our scholars made it to the finals!”

All fifteen films that made it to the final judging phase including an additional Graves Middle School student made film that was not in the top 15, will be included in the Directing Change film library which will be available for viewing across the state.

The five Film Finalists:

“Can I Help?” 

Daniel Bernal
David Castillo
Nestor Macias


“Not Just a Walk”

Jazmine Ramos
Arianna Flores


“Like You”

Ashlee Tena 
Nathan Elizarraraz
Ziandra Ramos
(Fravien cameo)


“What is Wrong?”

Eduardo Gonzalez
Sergio Nuno
Santiago Hernandez
(Martinez cameo)


“Hurt and Healing”

Damian Garcia
Luis Guzman


Film to be included in the Directing Change library:

“Words Can Change Someone’s Life” 

Kiara Ramirez
Jared Hernandez

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