Burbank High School Student Receives Warner Bros. Animation/Hanna-Barbera Award

Photo by Ruslana Yakovenko courtesy of Jonelle Pickett

Ruslana Yakovenko is a graduate of Burbank High School and was recently awarded the 2022 Warner Bros. Animation/Hanna-Barbera Honorship. guest speakers, attended studio and workshop trips, and participated in after-school career and technical education (CTE) classes through the Burbank Unified School District.

Three types of honors are available each year, including a Burbank Honor awarded to up to three Burbank high school graduates, a Los Angeles County Honor awarded to up to three Los Angeles County High School graduates, and the Hanna Honor -Barbera. Yakovenko received the Hanna-Barbera Award which is given to only one high school graduate in the United States.

Photo by Ruslana Yakovenko courtesy of Jonelle Pickett

The honor includes a paid summer internship at Warner Bros. studios, a $5,000 cash scholarship, professional development seminars to build skills, and the opportunity to be paired with an executive mentor during each of the four years of the program. “I’ve already spoken to my mentors and potential directors and it’s such an honor to work alongside people who worked on the shows I watched as a kid, even before I moved to the States. “, Yakovenko said.

Ruslana was born in Okhtyrka, Ukraine and moved to Burbank when she was 12 years old. “I’ve been interested in art and animation since I can remember. I was always trying to respond to how they made the characters move, even before I knew what the animation actually was,” Yakovenko said. “I would grab my camera, take pictures of my toys, then quickly flick through the pictures and make them move.” As a self-taught artist, she continued to learn and develop her interest as a hobby until she got to high school.

Photo by Ruslana Yakovenko courtesy of Jonelle Pickett

During her freshman year at Burbank High School, she joined the animation program where she learned from Burbank High’s animation teacher, Jonelle Pickett. “She always supported me, gave me many opportunities and pushed me to my full potential,” Yakovenko said. “Thanks to her, I started learning Toon Boom Harmony from the very beginning, which made my projects stand out.” Toon Boom Harmony is award-winning animation software used by popular animation studios.


In her sophomore year, Yakovenko completed the 2019-2020 Burbank High School Mentorship Program with Nickelodeon, where she learned about story development, character design, and animation techniques, helping her to create a short film titled The Shining Dream. The short film was nominated for Best Animation at the 2020 All American High School Festival where it was presented at the opening of the awards to support the theme of collaboration in the pandemic. The film also won Best Animated Film at the DITYATKO International Children’s Media Festival and was shortlisted for the European Youth Animation Film Festival 2020.

“It’s the story of a little fairy light bulb, who faces the dilemma between choosing her dream or staying with the family,” said Yakovenko who flew to New York to watch her animation screened in the largest AMC theater in the city. “I always want to learn and keep improving my skills. I want to not only master the art of 2D animation, but also become a concept artist and share my creativity with the world,” added Yakovenko.

Animation still by Ruslana Yakovenko, The Shining Dream, courtesy of Jonelle Pickett

Not only does Yakovenko shine in the classroom, but she participates in community service on campus, including helping to paint Burbank High School’s art mural, custom painting a public piano for the school, designing logos for events, serving as an ambassador for the animation program, and serving as one of the school’s animation representatives on a California student council working to create an animation organization. vocational and technical students for the arts, media and entertainment sector of CTE education. “She epitomizes the well-rounded, deeply caring artist, thinking through ideas at a very high level and putting in many hours practicing her craft,” said Pickett, Ruslana’s teacher and mentor. “I am incredibly proud of her determination and accomplishments, and thrilled that 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 animation visualizing the emotional and physical impact of war in Ukraine. You can watch his animated short film The shining dream here. Be sure to look for her name in the credits of future films as she continues to pursue her dream in the world of animation.

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