— by Gabi Stevenson, Communications Manager

The Happy Fernandez Leadership Prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities during their time at Moore. The endowed prize is named after Happy Fernandez, who served as president of the College for 13 years and had a particular focus on developing leadership programming, scholarships and fellowships to prepare the artists and designers educated at Moore to be leaders in their fields.

Congratulations to this year’s winner! Helen Vo is an Animation & Game Arts major from Upper Darby, PA and currently serves as president of Moore’s Animation Club. Read on for a Q&A with Vo as they share their proudest accomplishments and post-graduation plans.

Be sure to join us on Saturday, May 11 at 11 am at the Kimmel Center for Moore’s 175th Commencement to celebrate the rest of our graduating seniors!

The artwork for Vo's game Kibby Tower Defense. Artwork by Erin Parks '24.

How did it feel when you found out you won the Happy Fernandez Leadership Prize?

I was really excited! I think it was a week after I did my interview. [Dean of Students] Dr. Josh Wilkin emailed me told me to meet him in [Moore President] Cathy Young’s office. I thought I was in trouble! It turned out to be really nice and sweet. I love talking to Cathy and Josh. They congratulated me, and I felt like all four years of my hard work was being recognized. It was awesome because I love giving back to the Moore community.

What is your proudest accomplishment from your time at Moore?

I talk about this all the time—I love being president of the Animation Club! Being the person that a lot of Animation & Game Arts underclassmen reach out to and look to for guidance has been so rewarding.

I started out at Moore wanting to be an animator but I learned very quickly that I was not made for animating. Before I became president of the club, I was just a participating member, and I took part in Moore’s annual Anijam. It was my first time directing and producing a short film, and I did it in 72 hours with three other people. It was so invigorating to put everyone’s strengths together to make something so awesome, and it was a huge confidence boost for everyone.

It also solidified for me that this a career path I want to do—I want to be a producer or a project manager. It’s funny to say I went to art school to become a project manager, but that’s where I ended up.

What was your favorite part about being a student at Moore?

I love interacting with all the other students at Moore. I love our community and I truly have found my home here. I love being in the studios, chatting with other people outside of the classroom, and seeing what everyone’s working on and inspired by. I get inspired by other students and it makes me want to keep working on my own projects.

How do you plan to use the monetary gift that accompanies this award? Do you have any post-graduation plans?

Immediately after graduation, I’m going to Japan for two weeks for fun. After that, I’m going to apply for jobs, expand my network and build my portfolio. I already have some volunteer game developments lined up, and I’m working to see what an indie studio could look like post-graduation.

With my monetary gift, I want to be able to compensate all the people who helped me get here: the people who helped me build my senior thesis game, Kibby Tower Defense, alongside Erin Parks ’24. They worked so hard, so we feel like we should give back to them. Once Erin and I figure out how much we’ve pulled together, we’ll take slow steps towards starting a business.

What is your biggest piece of advice for future Moore students?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask those stupid questions. Make yourself memorable and make yourself heard. The Moore community and the industry at large loves helping people who speak up for themselves. Our faculty have been in our shoes, and they want to be able to give us the tools that they didn’t have access to. Just put yourself out there!