Ruslana Yakovenko is a graduating senior at Burbank High School and was recently awarded the 2022 Warner Bros. Animation/ Hanna-Barbera Honorship. In her four years attending the Burbank High School Animation Program she has engaged with visiting speakers, attended trips to studios and workshops, and participated in after school Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses through Burbank Unified School District.
Three honorship types are available yearly including a Burbank Honorship awarded to up to three graduating seniors attending high school in Burbank, a Los Angeles County Honorship awarded to up to three graduating seniors attending high school in Los Angeles County, and the Hanna-Barbera Honorship. Yakovenko was granted the Hanna-Barbera Honorship which is granted to just one graduating senior attending high school in the United States.
The honorship includes a paid summer internship at Warner Bros. Studios, a $5,000 cash scholarship, professional development seminars to grow skill sets, and the opportunity to be paired with an executive mentor during each of the four years of the program. “I’ve already talked to my potential mentors and directors and it is such an honor to work beside people who worked on the shows I watched as a kid, before I even moved to the United States,” said Yakovenko.
Ruslana was born in Okhtyrka, Ukraine and moved to Burbank at the age of 12. “I’ve been interested in art and animation since I remember myself. I would always try to answer how they made the characters move, before I even knew what animation actually was,” said Yakovenko. “I would take my camera, take pictures of my toys and then quickly flip through the photos and make them move.” As a self-taught artist she continued to learn and grow her interest as a hobby until she got to high school.
In her freshman year at Burbank High School she joined the Animation Program where she learned from Burbank High animation teacher, Jonelle Pickett. “She always supported me, provided many various opportunities and pushed me to my full potential,” said Yakovenko. “Thanks to her, I started learning Toon Boom Harmony from the very beginning, which made my projects stand out.” Toon Boom Harmony is an award-winning animation software used by popular animation studios.
In her sophomore year, Yakovenko completed the 2019-2020 Burbank High School Mentor Program with Nickelodeon where she gained knowledge on story development, character design, and animation techniques, helping her to create a short titled The Shining Dream. The short was nominated for Best Animation at the All American High School Festival 2020 where it was shown in the opening of the awards to support the theme of working together in the pandemic. The film also won Best Animation Film at DITYATKO International Children’s Media Festival and was selected for the European Youth Festival of Animated Film 2020.
“It is a story about a little lightbulb from fairy lights, that faces the dilemma between choosing their dream or staying with the family,” said Yakovenko who flew to New York City to watch her animation screened at the largest AMC theater in the city. “I always want to learn and keep on improving my skills. I want to master not only the art of 2D animation, but also become a concept artist and share my creativity with the world,” added Yakovenko.
Not only does Yakovenko shine in the classroom, she participates in community service around the campus including helping to paint the Burbank High School arts mural, custom painting a public piano for the school, designing event logos, serving as the ambassador for the Animation Program, and serving as one of the school’s animation representatives on a board of California students working to create a Career and Technical Student Organization for the Arts Media and Entertainment sector of CTE education. “She embodies the well rounded artist, caring deeply, thinking through ideas to a very high level, and devoting many hours to practicing her craft,” said Pickett, Ruslana’s teacher and mentor. “I am incredibly proud of her determination and accomplishments, and excited she has this opportunity to actively learn the many aspects of production through the Warners Bros Animation Honorship.”
Ruslana will be attending UC San Diego for Visual Arts Media in the fall but in the meantime she is completing a year-long Senior Focus project where she is working on an animation visualizing the emotional and physical impact of the war in Ukraine. You can watch her animation short The Shining Dream here. Make sure to look for her name in the credits of future films as she continues to follow her dream in the animation world.