Directing Change: Student Videos Address Teen Mental Health and Suicide Awareness

Recently, the student-run high school Video Club at Mount Madonna School (MMS) was recognized with two Honorable Mentions for their videos raising awareness about teen mental health, including suicide awareness. The videos were submitted to the Directing Change competition (DirectingChangeCA.org) and will be shown as public service announcements in movie theaters across the region.

The awarded videos are “988” directed by ninth grade student Indi Vargas and “Life in One Minute” directed by ninth grade student Leith Delmi McWilliams. All high school video club students were involved in making the videos.

“My vision for this movie was just a short but sweet collection of shots about the little beautiful things that bring joy and light to life,” commented McWilliams. “I got my idea for the movie by working with our wonderful club! I found myself looking around, feeling just super happy about our project, and how we were all working hard toward a goal that was both our passion project, and helping people too. 

“It just reminded me how beautiful life can be, and I really wanted my movie to reflect that.,” she continued. “Consequently, most of my shots were from behind the scenes of filming, and all the lovely things we saw at our various filming spots. I’m so glad we had this opportunity, and that I had such a cool team to work with! I couldn’t have done it without them.” View “Life in One Minute”

“I love making films,” said Vargas, “and since childhood, any excuse to pick up a camera and film has captured my interest and ignited my passion,“ said Vargas. “These videos were a team effort, and while each person created their own film, club members collaborated and inspired each other. When I was younger and dealing with difficult emotions like depression, I watched a lot of films and found myself really intrigued with the way films are crafted to make you feel specific emotions. This inspired my work on ‘988,” as I’ve always wanted to create a film that could capture a certain emotion. 

“In the plot of ‘988,’ the main character is going through the mundane tasks of everyday life while struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression and has trouble seeking help,” he continued. “He even goes as far as lying to his therapist that he’s alright. Eventually, after almost losing all hope, he realizes that to get through the struggle he needs to reach out, making the decision to call 988, a number that is hidden throughout various shots in the movie.” View “988” 

Each year, Mount Madonna School supports a number of student-led middle and high school extracurricular clubs. The Video Club was started by McWilliams this school year.

The students worked on the videos during Governance periods and they spent a lot of time meeting together outside of school to work on the videos,” shared teacher Angela Willetts, the club advisor. “They are an amazing team: self-motivated, creative, organized and collaborative.” 

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Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.