Teen takes adversity research to the White House
(From Left: Sukhdip Purewal and Sheana)
“It made me more critically aware. It affects not only you but your community,” Sheana told me sitting outside a Peet’s Coffee shop in San Francisco, finally taking a breather after her very first day of college. Sheana is referencing Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), experiences like abuse, neglect and household dysfunction that can impact children’s health and development, as well as community stressors like discrimination and community violence.
As part of a school project with mentor-teacher Tiffani Johnson and her fellow students at Leadership High School in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point community, Sheana conducted a research study on the prevalence of ACEs at her school. The research was conducted as part of the Center for Youth Wellness’ community-engaged research efforts, led by Research Associate Sukhdip Purewal.
The students found that students at Leadership High School reported disproportionately greater rates of ACEs than youth surveyed in national population-based studies. They also found that female students at Leadership were more likely to report sexual and verbal abuse, bullying and emotional neglect compared to male students. Male students were more likely to report incarceration, death of a friend or peer and harassment by police.
Sheana will be presenting the group’s findings at “Trauma-Informed Approaches in School: Supporting Girls of Color and Rethinking Discipline,” hosted by the White House on September 19. Center for Youth Wellness Founder and CEO Dr. Nadine Burke Harris will also be speaking at the meeting. This isn’t Sheana’s first trip to Washington but this one is particularly special because it gives her the opportunity to make a difference for future generations. “It’s the White House. It’s where decisions get made,” she told me.
She’s also excited to be attending a conference specifically focused on girls of color. Sheana, along with the majority of her former classmates, are girls of color and she’s concerned that their voices aren’t represented enough in research. Sheana believes highlighting young voices in work on ACEs encourages other young people to get involved. “We make it cool” and accepted to talk about ACEs, Sheana said. “Other students listened to us. We made it easier for them to interpret.”
Sheana’s ACEs research has influenced her goals for college and beyond. “I always wanted to start a revolution,” she said. “I found my passion through this project. I want to give back to the community.”