Youth-Nex 2024 Speaker Bureau

Source: Youth-Nex

Youth-Nex is dedicated a) to providing a venue for scholars and practitioners whose work is furthering the goal of racial justice, b) to supporting developmental science that is not only anti-racist but is in the service of dismantling white supremacy, and c) to amplifying the voices and lived experiences of adolescents who have been marginalized.

Interested in having one of our scholars provide a talk or workshop to your organization in 2024-25? Start your planning now with our 2024 Speaker Bureau!

In alphabetical order, learn more below about Dr.s Tish Jennings, Wintre Foxworth Johnson, Seanna Leath, Channing Mathews, Irène​ Mathieu, Amanda Nguyen, Stefanie Sequeira, Ashlee Sjogren, Lora Henderson Smith, Julia Taylor, and Katy Zeanah.

Patricia (Tish) Jennings, M.Ed., Ph.D.

Professor Jennings offers powerful workshops, captivating keynote addresses, and impactful webinars that tackle the pressing issues our schools confront today. Resilience, the ability to adapt to challenging situations without lasting harm, is now more crucial than ever for our students and educators. Teaching is fundamentally an emotional endeavor, with the social and emotional dynamics in the classroom playing a pivotal role in enhancing student learning and promoting positive behavior. Drawing on research from neuroscience, psychology, and education, Professor Jennings offers valuable insights into how mindfulness and compassion-based techniques, combined with instruction in emotional skills, can help educators manage the demands of the classroom, create a supportive learning environment, and rejuvenate the teaching and learning process. These adult skills can also be applied to support students facing trauma and adversity. In addition, Professor Jennings brings expertise in introducing mindful awareness and compassion practices to children and adolescents in developmentally appropriate ways, backed by evidence-based approaches.

Wintre Foxworth Johnson, Ph.D.

Wintre Foxworth Johnson, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education. Prior to joining the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia, Johnson served as a Teacher Leadership Coach (PreK-8) with the equity-focused policy and practice non-profit organization Teach Plus. She has extensive experience in teacher training and professional development, in particular, supporting educators in considering ways to translate culturally responsive and sustaining theories to practice in elementary school contexts; encouraging educators to excavate implicit biases, anti-Blackness, and other oppressive ideologies that inform their pedagogy; generating action-oriented dialogue that addresses the structural inequities that deleteriously affect marginalized students’ schooling experiences; and training preservice and inservice teachers to consider and enact pedagogical possibilities at the intersection of language arts and history instruction. One of her recent articles, published in the peer-reviewed journal Language Arts, is entitled “To Dream, to Fly, and to Be: Depictions of Black Livingness in Contemporary African American Children’s Literature”. Dr. Johnson earned her Ph.D. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Dr. Seanna Leath

Dr. Seanna (Shawna) Leath (Leeth) is an assistant professor in the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department at Washington University in St. Louis. She directs the Fostering Healthy Identities and Resilience (FHIRE) Lab, which focuses on the holistic development and wellbeing of Black girls and women within their families, schools, and communities. Her research expertise includes identity development, gendered racial bias and discrimination, and cultural socialization processes in Black families. She has hosted workshops on Black women’s health and wellness, racial and gender inequities in higher education, and family-school partnerships for Black youth.

Dr. Channing Mathews (she/her/hers)

Ethnic-racial identity (i.e., the process and meaning associated with the role of ethnicity and race in one’s life) and critical consciousness (i.e., one’s awareness of social inequality and the tools, beliefs, and actions used to challenge inequity) are two processes that are salient in the development of Black and Latinx youth. Though both processes have demonstrated consistently positive outcomes across academic, socioemotional, and sociopolitical domains, little work examines how these two processes interact for these youth over time. I argue that we cannot fully understand the development of youth of color without investigating where ethnic-racial identity and critical consciousness processes intersect. Using my Integrated Model of Ethnic-Racial Identity and Critical Consciousness Development (Mathews et al., 2020), I examine how youth of color draw upon this process to find success and thriving within and beyond STEM contexts, with particular attention how ethnic-racial identity and critical consciousness promote activism throughout adolescence and adulthood. 

Irène​ P. Mathieu, MD, MPH (she/her/hers)

Dr. Irène Mathieu is a general pediatrician with experience in community-engaged research in both U.S. and international settings. She is currently the principal investigator of the Wellness And Youth Social action (WAYS) Lab at the University of Virginia, where she leads a team of adult and youth researchers focused on understanding and addressing the adolescent mental health crisis. Dr. Mathieu uses youth participatory action research (YPAR) as a core approach to her work. She is also an award-winning author of multiple poetry books and has experience teaching poetry to adolescents and adults. She has particular expertise in the use of literature to teach learners about health disparities and social determinants of health.

Dr. Amanda Nguyen

Dr. Amanda Nguyen is a Guerrant Global Health Equity Professor and Associate Professor at the University of Virginia (UVA). Her work focuses on design, implementation, and evaluation of mental health and psychosocial support interventions in global and rural settings. She regularly leads complex, community-engaged research partnerships and has particular expertise conducting mental health research in humanitarian and emergency settings. She would be delighted to speak on topics related to child protection and mental health in humanitarian response, global and rural mental health, community-engaged research, implementation science, and international program evaluation.

Stefanie L Sequeira, PhD (she/her)

Stefanie is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at UVA. Stefanie’s training is in clinical and development psychology, and she specializes in the study and treatment of affective psychopathology (e.g., anxiety, depression) in childhood and adolescence. Stefanie integrates multiple methods, including functional magnetic resonance imaging and ecological momentary assessment, to examine social threat and reward processes (e.g., neural responses to peer rejection or acceptance; self-reported social anhedonia) in adolescents with or at risk for anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. She would be excited to speak on topics related to adolescent mental health, adolescent peer experiences and social media, or developmental affective neuroscience. 

Dr. Ashlee Sjogren

Ashlee Sjogren is a research assistant professor in the Department of Leadership, Foundations and Policy and a faculty affiliate of Youth-Nex. Her research interests focus on equitable education and student engagement in out-of-school contexts. She regularly speaks on a variety of topics such as adolescent development, Out-of-school time systems, student motivation, and student voice. As an educational psychologist, she often brings a social context lens to understanding questions of equity, access, and motivation in our education systems. If these topics interest you, please reach out to have her join as a speaker.

Dr. Lora Henderson Smith, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)

Dr. Lora Henderson Smith is an expert in school mental health and culturally responsive practices. She is available to provide expertise on supporting student mental health in schools. In particular, she is passionate about supporting students’ mental health needs as they return to school after mental-health related Emergency Department visits and hospitalizations. She also conducts community-based research in collaboration with Indigenous community partners and she is available to discuss this line of research and partnership.

Julia V. Taylor, Ph.D.

Julia V. Taylor, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Counselor Education. Prior to academia, Julia worked as a school counselor and dean of student services in a variety of K-12 settings. During this time she supervised school counselors-in-training, developed district-wide counseling curricula, served on school and district-level teams, and authored several counseling-related books. She has delivered hundreds of presentations at the local, state, and national level to K-12 educators and currently speaks about 1) mental health literacy, 2) girls’ leadership development, 3) improving school counselors’ use of data, and 4) designing, implementing, and evaluating effective small group counseling services.

Dr. Katy Zeanah (she/her), PhD, LCP, NCSP

Katy is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and Licensed Clinical Psychologist who has over 15 years of experience working in K-12 schools and mental health clinics. She has experience presenting to schools, community agencies, as well as local and national conferences.

As a certified trainer for the National Association of School Psychologists’ school crisis prevention and intervention training curriculum: PREPaRE, she helps schools develop crisis teams and safety plans that address mental health, physical health, and safety risk within the context of the school culture.

In addition, Katy is committed to increasing the availability of high-quality mental health services for students in school, particularly students who are at risk for mental health concerns and those who face barriers to receiving care. Her research has focused on the training and supervision of school-based mental health professionals, school-based mental health, and social justice in educational settings.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Research in Brief: Teaching Anti-Racist Counseling Theories

By: Natoya Hill Haskins


  • The Research in Brief blogs summarize research articles recently published in academic journals, and often align with other initiatives, such as February being Black History Month.
  • In this publication, the authors provide decolonizing therapeutic strategies and counselor educator recommendations.
  • Summarized in this blog, I describe an intersectional approach of Black liberation theology and narrative therapy that specifically addresses the cultural and spiritual needs of Black clients.
Source: Canva

This article focuses on how counselor educators can support counseling trainees as they serve Black clients who are impacted by oppressive religious experiences. Theories such as Black liberation theology (BLT) may offer a supplemental process to support students in effectively meeting the needs of Black clients.

Black Liberation Theory

BLT, an anti-racist theory used to understand the Black experience and its hegemonic foundations, can serve as a guide to understand Black cultural narratives, oppression, and liberation mechanisms. Unfortunately, these historical understandings regarding the Black community have been relegated to seminaries or biblical perspectives, even though it has implications for mental health practice. It is paramount that counselor educators go beyond traditional theories to include approaches such as BLT, which can expand social constructivist perspectives such as applications of narrative therapy, and potentially improve the efficacy of counseling with diverse, spiritual clients.

Narrative counselors who practice from a BLT lens use narratives to help Black clients cultivate agency. BLT and narrative approaches articulate the need for connection and empowerment through the dismantling of oppressive historical, spiritual, and social contexts.

Teaching Black Liberation Narrative Therapy (BLNT)

The goal of this process is threefold: (a) to help Black clients examine the debilitating narratives and dominant discourses that have hindered their experiences, (b) to help Black clients explore their personal dialogue that serve to confirm or disconfirm these narratives, and, (c) to identify ways they can validate self and develop a narrative that is not hindered by oppressive dominant theological discourse. Aspects of BLNT can be infused into theories, group counseling, multicultural, transpersonal, as well as techniques courses using one or more of these five processes.

  • Validating Blackness: Anti-Blackness continues to impact the experiences of Black clients. To align with the BLNT approach, educators actively teach trainees how to minimize power within the relationship by allowing the client to be the expert in their own story and by listening to their experiences related to the oppressive narratives with openness and empathy. In addition, the counselor educator can assist trainees learn how to share their own stories of liberation as it relates to dealing with the biblical and church doctrine.
  • Examining the Eschatology of the Present: The eschatological roots of the Black Church were grounded in understanding the finiteness of the human condition. Counselor educators can help the counselors in training focus on hope as it relates to liberation, where they help the client to examine present oppression as it relates to their current and future relationships, decisions, and interactions. During the learning process, the trainee can explore how justice cannot only occur with cosmological or apocalyptic expectations, as there is no need to accept oppression now. As such, the counselor educator can encourage the trainees to ask the client the following: “What do you believe about injustice?” and “What can you do to experience liberation or freedom now?”
  • Dismantling Oppressive Religious Structures: Dismantling oppressive religious structures can help strengthen the client’s sense of meaning regarding their story. As a result, the counselor educator will want to teach the trainee how to question the client about alternative accounts and experiences of their experience in their church community, “Are there times when you did feel liberated while communing with the Black Church and within the society?” Counselor educators can teach trainees about cultural messaging and how it can and has helped to maintain the current state in Black spiritual communities.
  • Creating New Values Towards Liberation: According to BLT, courage is necessary to circumvent socially constructed notions or stereotypes that the client may have related to feeling powerless. The counselor educator can teach trainees to help the client explore marginalizing social constructions related to being a member of the Black Church and the Black community, and the impacts on their mental health. To illuminate these areas, the counselor educator can have trainees ask the following questions: “When do you feel like you are oppressed related to church?” and “With whom do you feel oppressed?”
  • Creating Opportunities for Reconciliation: The counselor educator can describe how the trainee can specifically validate the Black client’s desire to advocate and to stand alongside them as they advocate in their communities. Counselor educators can share how trainees can help clients in counseling solidify the new narrative and reconciled identity that may include other Black individuals who have triumphed over marginalizing ideology.

Implications & Conclusions

By utilizing this integrative model, counselors and trainees have an operative framework through which they can provide therapy that empowers, uplifts, and validates Black clients. However, counselor educators may have limited training in Black liberation and how it can be used in clinical practice. Counselor educators need to help trainees focus on how the client makes meaning of their liberatory experience and planned steps for maintaining their growth. Additionally, it is important to consider the various religious beliefs of Black clients and how parts of this approach may be useful for different clients. Empirical studies are needed to examine the effectiveness of BLNT with clients and its clinical outcome.


Haskins, N. H., Harris, J. A., Parker, J., Nambiar, A., & Chin, P. (2023). Teaching anti-racist counseling theories: Black liberation narrative therapy. Counselor Education and Supervision, 00, 1–13.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: During her 20-year career in counseling and counselor education, Natoya Hill Haskins has been committed to equity and inclusion. Haskins developed the Social Justice and Diversity Research Fellows Program for graduate students, with the aim of addressing research training disparities for students of color who are interested in conducting equity and social justice research. In addition, she has created affinity group spaces for African American women in counselor education. Haskins has over 40 publications in the areas of womanist clinical applications and social justice competence in P-20 schools. Haskins is the 2022-2023 president of the Association of Counselor Education and Supervision. Prior to that, she served as the president of the Southern Association of Counselor Education and Supervision (2017-2018).

Refugee Youth Voices: Introducing the R_PEACE Coalition

By: Jennifer C. Mann

This is the first post in a the Refugee Youth Voices series that is uplifting the voices of young people with refugee- and immigrant-backgrounds.


  • This post is introducing the Refugee Youth Voices blog series with the Refugees Pursuing Education And Community Excellence (R_PEACE) coalition.
  • I present information about the students from refugee backgrounds and the inequitable systems they face.
  • I introduce the work and impact of R_PEACE and set the stage for upcoming student-written blogs in this series. Additionally, I provide resources for learning more. 
Source: Jennifer Mann

I spent sixteen years as an educator, mostly to refugee- and immigrant-background students who recently arrived in the United States. I am currently a Research Scientist at Duke University, where I work on making education more accessible and more welcoming for such students.

Refugee Backgrounds & Inequitable Systems

Refugees relocate to escape violence, poverty, and extreme conditions. They also arrive in new countries hoping for educational opportunities. However, despite their interest in educational achievement, there are many reasons refugees face educational barriers.

First, the process of migration for refugees often involves emotional trauma and may result in post-traumatic stress disorder.1 Additionally, there are often gaps in children’s formal education before and during the resettlement process.2 Students with limited or interrupted formal education have had at least two fewer years of schooling than their peers and have varying levels of formal education.3

Furthermore, refugee-background students often face mixed reception by community and school personnel.4 Overall, there is evidence of a continued deficit perspective held by teachers and administrators towards refugee and immigrant students and a subsequent lack of access to rigorous learning opportunities.5

In response to the lack of rigorous learning, I wanted to provide refugee-background youth with opportunities for complex learning and critical engagement. One important research project I led was a social design-based experiment, which was conducted in an effort to bring about social transformation through a reconceptualization and reorganization of standard educational practices. Central to social design-based research is inviting participants to partner in taking action to help transform the inequitable systems which adversely impact their lives. In this social design-based study, I worked with a group of young adults from refugee backgrounds who wanted to increase college access for other refugee-background students.

They formed a coalition called R_PEACE (Refugees Pursuing Education And Community Excellence). Through R_PEACE they traveled around to nonprofits who work with refugee- and immigrant-background students and shared some of their educational experiences and insights and offered their support. Additionally, R_PEACE spoke to over a hundred educators about how they can better support their students who are new to the country or new to the language.

The Coalition’s Work & Impact

The R_PEACE students have incredible insight into the unique complexities of being refugees. Driven by a motivation to help, they are able to:

  • Clearly communicate their own experiences.
  • Challenge others to consider how they can help craft better educational experiences for other refugee-background students.
  • Create better experiences and better futures for others.
  • Openly share their own difficult experiences.

It is my hope that we can all be open to hearing and learning from them. In the upcoming series blogs, Sue Mar, Gigi, and other students share profound insights that are relevant to us all as we seek to make the world a better place.

As educators, we can improve the world by making strides towards cultivating spaces of belonging. As researchers, we can seek out humanizing and participatory research approaches which allow the participants to partner with us in seeking solutions to the problems they face. As both an educator and a researcher, one of the most important actions I can take is listening to learn. It is my hope that we will each pause in our busy lives and listen to learn from the wisdom of others.

Resources for Learning More

In addition to listening to learn, we can read to learn. I’ve included some resources for those wanting to know more. Learn more about teaching refugees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the world’s leading refugee organization. Visit Harvard’s page on research, education, and action for refugees around the world for academic and creative resources. Finally, read an article I wrote about the importance of caring relationships and relevant and relatable curriculum.


1Tuliao et al., 2017; 2Daniel & Zybina, 2019; 3Hos, 2016; 4Roxas & Roy, 2012, p. 469; 5Alford, 2014; Daniel & Zybina, 2019; Lau, 2012

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Jennifer C. Mann is a Research Scientist at Duke University’s Center for Child and Family Policy. In 2023, she received her Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences from North Carolina State University. Dr. Mann spent sixteen years as an educator, teaching high school English, elementary and adult English as a Second Language (ESL), and undergraduate pre-service English and ESL education. Her research interests include refugee and immigrant education, culturally sustaining critical pedagogies, and the social-emotional well-being of marginalized students.