The SpeakOnIt! podcast brings together students and professionals to discuss topics relating to mental health and the challenges that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color may face during their academic and professional careers.
Jonea Ahouissousi graduated from The University of Virginia in 2017 where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Women, Gender, and Sexualities. While at university, Jonea created a program called Success at SEA, designed to help African-American fourth year students transition from the university to the “real world”. Jonea is currently pursuing a dual Masters’s degree at George Mason University in Conflict Resolutions and Social Work where she works in the Social Work Integrative Research Lab as a graduate research assistant under Dr. Eric Waithaka.
Caitlin Andress is an undergraduate student studying Psychology, Biology, and Pre-Medicine at St. Edward’s University. A lover of advocacy and social justice, Caitlin has been actively involved in her community through volunteerism and leadership. She was a Social Justice Intern with her university’s Office of Community Engagement, and she also is a volunteer with NAMI Central Texas. Caitlin is a firm believer in the connection between the mind, body, and spirit; furthermore, she aspires to become a holistic psychiatrist. Being a daughter of a U.S. Marine and having a passion for reducing suicide in the veteran community, she dreams of creating her own non-profit organization for veterans to create a safe space for them to heal and receive support.
Dannie Bell is travelling with Up With People as she takes a gap year, eventually matriculating into Harvard College’s Class of 2024. A competitive runner and an avid yogi, Dannie is passionate about physical and mental wellness. She believes that an important promoter of both is community.
Miran Bhima is a rising senior at the North Carolina School of Science in Math. He enjoys playing golf on his varsity school team as well as conducting lab research in the fields of organic and medicinal chemistry. He aspires to enter into the health field due to his interests in science. A fun fact about him is that he enjoys learning about history, specifically events in history that help him contextualize and understand why certain disparities in society exist the way they do.
Francesca Henderson is a junior at Woodward Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. She is passionate about journalism and social issues, especially those concerning racial equity and she aspires to have a career in public health policy. She is a member of her school’s Black Student Union, policy debate team, and Intersectional Feminism Club, as well as president and founder of the Wizards of Wallstreet Financial Club. She also serves on her school’s Service Leadership Board which organizes and plans community service initiatives. She is also on the Community Building Committee for her schools’ chapter of the Horizons organization which strives to provide educational enrichment for underprivileged children. She also loves to read, watch Netflix, play with her dog, and go on long-distance runs in her free time.
Ryan Houston-Dial is a senior undergraduate at the University of Texas at San Antonio student studying Psychology while minoring in Anthropology. He has interests in a career in clinical counseling and social work research. He is an assistant opinion editor at The Paisano: UTSA’s Student Publication. Ryan likes to spend his time writing, watching sports and trying new foods. Through his love of writing, Ryan is motivated to communicate the importance of mental health to minority groups.
Kaelyn Huang is a senior scholar at Dublin High School where she finds interest in behavioral sciences and works to end the stigma surrounding mental health. Kaelyn is an insightful and a motivated individual with future aspirations to pursue a career in neurology and act as a voice for individuals in her community. She hopes to not only continue her work as a teenage mental health advocate, but also to discover her own identity through her passions in running marathons and traveling the world.
Diya Lakwani is a rising senior at McClure Health Science High School. She loves to play tennis to relieve stress. She co-created a club at her school that focuses on having a stress-free environment for students and they help build college and career goals so no idea goes wasted. She wants to become a doctor because she strongly believes in helping others and spreading kindness in ways that make this world a better place. She is in her county youth commission and she is working on a service project that relates to mental health awareness. A fun fact about her is that she loves spicy food so much that she has to have something hot at least once a day!
Sofia Marin is a junior at Vernon Hills High School, with a passion to bring awareness to the layers of economic, historic and political disciplines which have contributed to the rising obesity pandemic, and exacerbated the necessity to preserve our nation’s health. In working with her school’s Dare to Empower feminism club, and Federal Medical Professionals of America, as an executive leader, and as the previous Brushwood Youth Ambassador for a Collaborative Conversation on racism, she has helped spread awareness of global patterns and issues. Currently, she’s working on a school-wide project analyzing how social media affects mental health. Coming from a Mexican-American originating family, has allowed her to see the stark disparities and worlds in which people, including her own family live. In the future, she hopes to extend and magnify her passions in a public health field to help provide the BIPOC community with the resources, the medical knowledge and the economic tools to build a good quality of life and strong mental health. A fun fact about her is that she’s a 4 sport athlete!
Mathew Mathew is a first-generation American, and he is a rising senior high school student at Danbury High School; He likes to use his spare time to play tennis, play the piano, and read political/medical op-eds. By living in one of the most diverse cities in the United States, he has been exposed at a young age to diversity, and he has grown to learn the importance of facilitating health equities with the given awareness of intersectionality. While taking an interest in the medical branches of endocrinology and epidemiology, he also hopes to use this knowledge to build mental health equity research and innovation for structurally marginalized communities. Currently, in his school, he is the founder of the Cultural Public Health Committee, a student-run organization that spreads awareness about health issues involving various cultural communities (ex. black maternal mortality rate, mental health in youth). He is also the founder of Danbury High School’s UNICEF Club that sheds light on child humanitarian crises. As an avid advocate of mental health, he hopes to join the Steve Fund to analyze important health policy and community reform for people of color.
Nithya Medam is a rising senior and International Baccalaureate student at Modesto High School. She has a deep passion for advocacy, be it in education policy or mental health, and a desire to make a positive, sustainable impact on the lives of others. She serves on her school’s ASB, in several youth advocacy organizations and is a dedicated volunteer with the American Red Cross. Her future aspiration is to pursue a career in biomedical sciences, working to ensure that health is never a barrier to an individual’s ability to achieve a successful and fulfilling life. As a spontaneous adventurer and competitive martial artist, she’d like to give others the foundation to explore their passion as well.
Grant Smith is a rising junior at Baldwin Wallace University studying neuroscience and biology. He is active in the mental health community through community service, and has spent the past two summers doing research into psychiatric disorders at Johns Hopkins University and University of Michigan. Grant enjoys running and playing tennis in his free time and is always up for a good movie. He hopes to help remove the stigma of mental illness in African American communities in his time on the Youth Board.
Sharnell Smothers is a Mental Health Advocate, Equity Scholar and Student Wellness Ambassador at Ohlone College. She is entering her last year at Ohlone and hoping to transfer to SFSU to be a part of their 2022 bachelors of social work program cohort. She is also a mentee at the Urban League of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area where she is receiving training to become a letter in the county of Alameda. This program will allow her to push her initiative towards promoting mental health. As a kid, her dream job was to be a News Reporter. She is fascinated by the way they read and convey their commentary. She often reads in her “News Reporter voice” for fun. She’s originally from Oakland, CA and she currently lives in Alameda, CA.
Nikhita Tandon is a rising senior in Whitney High School and lives with her family in the suburbs of Sacramento. She is currently taking a summer class at her local college: Biopsychology which focuses on the relationship between the nervous system and behavior, and it is developing her interests in psychology and neuroscience. She’s currently a Co-Director of a student-led medical and stem nonprofit which is hosting a summer program of at least 900 students where she’s going to be presenting a few scientific workshops and a medical debate. She also loves to dance, especially a cultural dance called Bhangra which she has been performing on stages for the last six years. Dance has always been a creative way of expressing herself as it relaxes her and keeps a smile on her face. She also loves creative writing ever since she had to write short stories in sixth grade, and she has self-published a mysterious magical book for kids called This Is Just The Beginning.
Faria Tavacoli is a Las Vegas resident and a sophomore at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She is majoring in public health and minoring in neuroscience. Faria is passionate about the intersections of public health and neurology and she hopes to aid low income communities in her own city and beyond borders to ensure mental wellbeing, eliminating health disparities. In her free time, Faria winds down by skateboarding through the streets and skateparks of Vegas and by drinking coffee while socializing at her local coffee shop.
Ashlee Young is a 21-year-old from sunny Orlando, FL. She is a Graduating Senior at The Prairie View A&M University, where she’s the Vice President of the Psychology Club and Association of Black Psychologists. She aspires to work in these different areas during the span of her career: Clinical Psychology, Dream Psychology, Forensic Pathology, and as a Federal Bureau of Investigation Profiler. A fun fact about her is that she has been a dancer since she was 3 and has trained in many styles like Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Lyrical, African, Hip Hop, Contemporary, and Modern.
Salma Yousufzai is a freshman at Northern Virginia Community College where she is completing her associate’s degree in engineering. After getting her associate’s degree, she is planning to transfer to a university to continue studying engineering. Salma joined YAB to learn more about a topic she’s passionate about: mental health inequities in communities of color. In her senior year of high school she was the president and cofounder of Atom Minds Matter, a club that focused on teaching healthy coping mechanisms for teens. After graduating, Salma is hoping to work with nonprofits and be more involved in her community.
Our Mission: Promoting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color