OC Register’s Art Students of the Year – Nominees from Yorba Linda High School


Drake Hammond

Drake Hammond (12) is extremely talented at creating unique 3D art such as this steampunk piece.

Anjeli Webb, Editor

Many students on campus excel in arts ranging from jazz band to animation and film production to ceramics. A fantastic opportunity for teachers and mentors to highlight their success is by nominating them for the designation of Orange County Register’s Artist of the Year, where students are recognized for their excellence in their respective specialty. With that being said, here are the YLHS Mustang nominees for the OC Register’s Art Students of the Year 2023!

Film and TV

  • Natalie Neal (Cinematography)
  • Magdalena Aparicio (Film Directing)
  • Hunaina Hirji (Promo/Commercial Making)

Hunaina Hirji (11) has accomplished a lot despite only being a junior in high school. One of her passions is video productions, which she expresses “is such a rewarding journey. ”

Each day, I learn something new and have the opportunity to share it from my lens of perception. I am honored and humbled to have received tremendous support from my family, mentors, and peers to continue creating and sharing my vision. In the world of film making, I tell all of my stories through sound design. It is the part of the process that I am most passionate about. Because I capture all my productions without live audio, I get to develop a unique sonic vocabulary for each one and let my vision come to life in post-production. Film making allows me to portray raw, yet refined perspectives. It’s not about being perfect or following a “traditional pathway.” It’s about telling a story and being authentic.

Fine Arts

  • Drake Hammond (Sculpting and other 3D)

Drake Hammond (12) is nominated for both the Fine Arts category and the Media Arts category, which just goes to show how dedicated he is to art. A true artist is not limited to just one type of artistic form. Hammond says, “I love how imperfect my art is,” and explains how he gets his signature style.

I like to intentionally make things in my art look imperfect because it makes it a lot more realistic and natural. I feel very honored to be nominated for this title. I am very excited about it and am very thankful for the opportunity to showcase my art.

Instrumental Music

  • Brady Nguyen (Jazz)
  • Stefanie Bates (Winds and Percussion)
  • Leah Jennings (Winds and Percussion)
  • Noor Shmara (Winds and Percussion)

Noor Shmara (12) is a well-rounded student who is involved in everything from YLHS’s highest level classes to PYLUSD’s Superintendent’s High School Advisory Council. Shmara reveals how his art has supported him: “where it is me, my books, and my laptop against the school year, my passion for the clarinet is something that constantly reminds me that I am more than just a kid in high school.”

With playing the clarinet, I can truly appreciate or savor a concert or solo more than if I were playing multiple instruments in multiple ensembles. I am always honored to display my art to YLHS and Orange County, and ‘savor the performance’ whilst also giving back to the wonderful community that has supported me and the YLHS Instrumental Music programs. With this, I feel very proud and fulfilled that I can positively influence my community through this art form.”

Stefanie Bates (11) is herself an instrumental prodigy. She states, “being able to express myself through music and watch myself grow throughout the years is what I love most about my art.”

Being nominated for this title has given me immense gratitude towards my instructors, especially Mr. Garcia. I’m thankful for his guidance within the past few years and I can’t wait for what is to come next.

Media Arts

  • Drake Hammond (Motion Graphics and Animation)
  • Sofia Stewart (Motion Graphics and Animation)
  • Magdalena Aparicio (Photography)

Throughout her high school career, Magdalena Aparicio (12) has established herself as a brilliant photographer and filmmaker, being nominated for both categories this year. Aparicio explains that film making is a combination of all her favorite art forms.

I love painting, photography, and storytelling. Film is everything at once: structured, visual, and articulately made to tell a story.

YLHS is extremely proud of our extraordinarily talented nine Mustangs who were nominated for the OC Register’s Art Students of the Year. Regardless of the winners who will be announced, one thing is certain: these nominees are the future pioneers of all types of art forms in our generation.