2 North County schools recognized for short films on mental health


VISTA, Calif. – Two San Diego County schools recently were recognized for creating short films highlighting mental health and suicide prevention during the pandemic.

Students at Rancho Minerva Middle School in Vista and Torrey Pines High School in San Diego both brought home second-place finishes for films submitted in the Directing Change Program and Film Contest. The contest, administered by the California Mental Health Services Authority, encourages students to submit short films to express themselves about mental health topics.

At Rancho Minerva, a team of seven young filmmakers under the tutelage of advisor Beth Duncan submitted a 60-second film called “The Pep Talk” on having conversations about mental health.

“Each one of them put something that was happening to them and spun it in a positive way,” Rancho Minerva principal Christina DeSanto said. “It was kind of what do you do if you are feeling this way, and this is what they did.”

Duncan helped facilitate the short film remotely. She and her students learned to work together to solve the distance learning problem “through the awesome technology of Zoom,” she said. The film has been entered into two more competitions along with a documentary called “Boys of V-Town” featuring professional skater Bob Burnquist.

Although it was a challenging year for students, Duncan hopes the film reaches those feeling alone.

“The kids really recognized how important their words were,” she said, “and their work on this project potentially could make it into the hands or the heart of a students that was really struggling with bullying or loneliness or isolation during COVID.”

Angelina Ricardez, an eighth grader who worked on the film, said “The Pep Talk” offers exactly that: some words of encouragement “for all the kids around the world who are either in danger or feel lonely or they feel as if they want to harm themselves or do something even worse.”

Others to work on the project include Natalie Lopez, Jazmin Baca Guzman, Jasmin Lujan, Angelina Guerra, Jesus Aquino, Jesiah Gastelum and Cristo Juarez.

At Torrey Pines, filmmakers Mia Cohen, Ava Wehlage and Eve Korchkov were recognized for their work on “Mind Over Media,” a 60-second film encouraging young people to reach out to peers if they’re experiencing feelings of suicide.

Another film created by Torrey Pines students called “One Text Away” was an honorable mention in the same category.

“The work our students have done as part of the Directing Change program is something I am incredibly proud of, and am honored to support,” principal Rob Coppo said. “Our Falcons truly understand the importance of suicide prevention, and I am extremely grateful for their hard work, their creativity and their service to our community.”

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