Local students honored in monthly contest that highlights mental health, suicide prevention

A shared desire to help promote the mental health and wellness of local youth recently inspired two award-winning projects by Orange County students in the monthly Directing Change Hope and Justice Contest.

Amariah Garza, a 12th grade student from OCDE’s Pacific Coast High School, was awarded first place in the film and written works category for her entry, “Pawsitively Grateful.” The entire student body at Beatty Middle School in the Buena Park School District earned second place in the art category for their project titled “Beatty Middle School Community Art of Gratitude.”

Directing Change is part of Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement and statewide efforts to prevent suicide, reduce stigma related to mental illness, and promote the mental health and wellness of students. The contest is open to youth ages 12 to 25 and free to enter.

According to the Directing Change website, the Hope and Justice category embraces the promoting social justice portion of the Directing Change mission statement, going a step beyond traditional submission categories — suicide prevention and mental health — to make the connection between social justice and health. In this category, submissions are accepted and awarded monthly and encouraged to be submitted in multiple art forms.

You can check out the winning video and art project as well as a short description of each submission below.

First Place: “Pawsitively Grateful”
Pacific Coast High School
A Film By: Amariah Garza
Advisor: Barry Koff
View and Download

“Gratitude is demonstrated in many ways to and by those we care about. Whether this be through words, actions, unspoken acts, affection, or gifts. Though many people have pets and are thankful for them, it is not as common to see and explain exactly how they help a person and what they bring to one’s life. My video serves as a reminder that no matter how long one has a pet, the love, kindness, empathy, and joy that can be learned from them will forever be present and allow us to connect to those around us.” — Amariah Garza

Second Place: “Beatty Middle School Community Art of Gratitude”
Artwork by: Gordon H. Beatty Middle School students
Advisor: Jodie Reddingius
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“All of the students at Gordon H. Beatty Middle School were given a popsicle stick and were asked to draw pictures, words, or other images that describe what they are grateful for. Gratitude was explained as something or someone that makes their life better and are glad to have in their life (i.e., hobbies, family, traditions, friends, objects, etc.). The art image that I am turning in is a collaborative art piece of over approximately 230 students expressing what they are grateful for.” — Jodie Reddingius