Principal Investigator

Hasina S

Dr. Hasina Samji (She/Her)

Principal Investigator

Dr. Hasina Samji an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University and a Senior Scientist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist trained at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with expertise in the design and implementation of observational cohort studies and analysis of large administrative health databases. Dr. Samji’s main research interest is how synergistic epidemics, or “syndemics,” of illnesses like HIV, HCV, and mental illness and substance use disorder interact with contextual factors like poverty and early life trauma to create mutually reinforcing clusters of epidemics among populations, resulting in poorer access to healthcare and outcomes across the lifecourse.

Dr. Samji leads the Youth Development Instrument (YDI), an interdisciplinary study measuring predictors of positive youth well-being, mental health, and development in high school students in collaboration with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP-UBC), community, clinical and policy partners, and youth themselves. The YDI will elucidate upstream skill-development and structural supports for mental illness prevention and positive trajectories for young people. She is also the co-Principal Investigator of the Personal Impacts of COVID-19 Survey (PICS) study in partnership with Anxiety Canada and BC Children’s Hospital to measure the population-level mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research Staff

Sayema Badar (She/Her), MPH

Research Project Coordinator

Sayema is a public health researcher, holding a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Tulane University. She has mainly been involved in infectious disease research, both locally and internationally, and has experience working in the non-profit, hospital, and academic sectors. Most recently, she supported an international clinical study exploring the use of synbiotics in the prevention of neonatal sepsis while at SickKids in Toronto. For some time, Sayema has been interested in mental health research and she is thrilled at the opportunity to work on the YDI project with the team to better understand youth development and identify ways to improve youth well-being in BC.


Christine Yanagawa (She/Her), BA

Research Assistant

Christine is a Master of Public Health student at Simon Fraser University. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Cultural Anthropology from Concordia University. She is also a Registered Veterinary Technician and is interested in the intersections between human wellness and animal health, including the ways in which animal companionship bears on mental and physical health. Christine has a budding interest in youth well-being using a comprehensive approach to the determinants of health and is excited to join the YDI team in formulating a wellness index to measure findings from across BC. Outside of work and studies, Christine enjoys trail and urban running, hiking, and watching films and documentaries.

David Long (He/Him), MD

Psychiatry Resident

David is a Research Track Psychiatry Resident interested in combining research with clinical practice in psychiatry. Her is interested in using both qualitative and quantitative “Big Data” methods to further our understanding of biopsychosocial determinants of mental health and mental illness as well as youth and family perceptions of mental health. Outside of work, David enjoys learning languages, reading science fiction and spending time outdoors.

Jillian Herring (She/Her), BSc

MPH Practicum Student

Jillian is currently a Master of Public Health student in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. She graduated from Queen’s University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Science Honours Degree, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Life Sciences. Throughout her undergraduate degree, Jillian’s research interests included stress, mental health and teen dating violence. While working at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement, she became interested in upstream approaches to promote youth mental health and wellbeing. Jillian is excited to be a member of the YDI team and utilize knowledge translation strategies to support youth mental health and wellbeing in British Columbia. Outside of work and school, she enjoys spending time in nature, reading and watching documentaries.

Jocelyn Lee (She/Her), MPH, BSc

MPH Practicum Student

Jocelyn is a Master of Public Health student at McMaster University. She holds a BSc in Biomedical Science and minors in Psychology and Music from Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University). With interests in youth mental health, refugee and migrant health, and the impacts of the broader social determinants of health, her desire to work at the intersection of research, communications, outreach, and advocacy led her naturally to the YDI team. As part of her practicum, she is excited to help translate YDI findings into action and hopes to promote evidence-based policy- and decision-making to support youth well-being across BC.

Judy Wu (She/Her), MPH, BSc

Research Assistant

Judy is a current Master of Public Health student in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia. She previously completed her BSc at UBC in 2019, majoring in biology with a focus on ecology and evolution. Judy joined the YDI team in summer 2020 as a practicum student. Her practicum project focused on climate change anxiety and distress in young people, with the results of her literature review having been incorporated into the YDI survey instrument. Judy has always been interested in positive youth well-being. She currently works as a Youth Educator with the Vancouver Coastal Health BLUSH team, facilitating sexual health and education workshops for high school students in Metro Vancouver. However, her experience as a group facilitator for Vancouver’s first support group for borderline personality disorder (BPD) highlighted the need and importance of addressing mental health in youth. With many support group attendees sharing an experience of poor mental health or mental health symptoms during adolescence and young adulthood, she became increasingly interested in improving intervention and support programs for this population. Judy is incredibly excited be a part of the YDI team and to play a role in youth mental health and well-being across BC.

Julia Blake (She/Her), MD

Psychiatry Resident

Julia is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Resident at UBC who is interested in promoting youth mental health through school-based initiatives. Julia hopes to focus her clinical career on working with children and youth in BC with psychiatric illnesses. Clinically, she is predominantly working at BC Children’s Hospital and at a community Child and Youth Mental Health Team. Growing up with a parent who worked as a teacher, she became aware from a young age the opportunities available in the school system to identify mental health symptoms and promote optimal mental health. She is very excited to be a part of the YDI team to help school districts better understand the mental health needs of their students.

Julia Kaufman (She/Her), BSc

Research Assistant / Incoming MSc Student

Julia is a research assistant and soon-to-be Master of Science student at Simon Fraser University. She received her Bachelor of Science Honours Degree from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Throughout her undergraduate degree, Julia was involved in research on health care access for long COVID, sexual health education, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. Currently, Julia is interested in a strengths-based research approach to youth wellbeing and mental health. She wants to understand what helps youth be resilient and how that can be used to support them throughout their development. Outside of work and school, Julia likes exploring parks, reading, and the occasional run.

Lauren Gorfinkel (She/Her), MPH

Research Assistant

Lauren is an aspiring clinician scientist with an interest in psychiatric epidemiology and addiction medicine. She holds an MPH in epidemiology from Columbia University in New York, and is currently a second year medical student at the University of British Columbia. Her research aims to surveil and characterize unmet needs related to substance use, mood disorders, and mental health and addiction services.

Mari del Casal (He/Him), BA

Implementation Coordinator, MPH-thesis Student

Mari is a Master of Public Health student at Simon Fraser University where he also completed his Bachelors degree in Psychology. Mari’s role is to guide and support the implementation of the YDI across school districts. Mari joined the team because of his interests in youth mental health, developmental psychopathology, and prevention science. He was previously involved in the evaluation of an attachment-based intervention for parents of teens with serious behavioural and emotional concerns. He has also worked in community mental health where he coordinated a program for young adults. He hopes to blend his experiences and research interests to continue in a role that  blends policy and research to benefit families and children. 

Rachel Correia (She/her), BPH

MPH Practicum Student

Rachel is a Master of Public Health student at McMaster University. She previously completed her Honours Bachelor of Public Health at the University of Waterloo in 2021, majoring in Public Health and minoring in Gerontology. Rachel’s interests lie mostly in harm reduction, and health promotion and prevention. Specifically, she is interested in the social determinants of health, improving health disparities and inequities, and non-communicable diseases. Rachel is excited to support the development of a resource toolkit that is an important data-to-action strategy for school, community, and health stakeholders. Rachel is honoured to be part of the YDI team and is looking forward to learning more about the mediating effects of positive childhood experiences on youth mental health and wellbeing.

Rob Higgins (He/Him/His/They), BA

Research Assistant

Rob is a master’s student in the Social Dimensions of Health Program at the University of Victoria. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of British Columbia. He is currently a Research Assistant with the Characterizing the Burden of Mental Illness Among People Living with HIV – CANFAR Project. Rob’s research interests include the health and wellbeing of gay, bi and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM), pharmacological prevention strategies for HIV prevention and gbMSM blood donation.

Sonia Heer (She/Her)

Honours Student

Sonia is a fourth year Health Sciences student at Simon Fraser University with a focus in Population and Quantitative studies. Sonia has joined the team to explore her interest and advocacy in youth mental health that arose from her previous projects with CMHA-BC. Her experiences inspired the decision to pursue an honours, exploring newcomer youth mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic utilizing data from the YDI. She is excited to join the YDI team and contribute to youth mental health and well-being.

Youth Advisory Council

Ayden James Thane (He/Him)

Ayden Thane is 16 years old and in grade 11 at Pitt Meadows Secondary School. He is an honour roll student who also plays basketball at a highly competitive level. He is very strong, outgoing and trustworthy. Ayden is a genuine and caring person, and will go out of his way to make sure everyone is happy and enjoying life. Everyone knows they can come to Ayden if they need someone to talk to. This is why Ayden has joined the YDI. He is passionate about the well being of others. Ayden is looking to go into the field of Paediatric Rehabilitation Physical Therapy, to work as a doctor with children. He looks to help youth around the world with any problems they may be having. Ayden is known to be empathetic and an “old soul”. He was chosen this year to give a speech in front of his school district at the SD42 Mental Health Conference held at Swan-E-Set. Besides basketball, some of Ayden’s other passion’s include acting, photography, fitness, and playing the guitar. He also is a member of his school’s Link Crew, and is a Big Brother with Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada. Ayden is excited for this opportunity, and is looking forward to what the future holds.

Brandon Stellaard (He/Him)

My name is Brandon, and I’m 16 years old. I’m in grade 11 and I live in Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. I wanted to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I saw this as an opportunity to make my voice heard and to participate in something significant for the good of my community. I hope to go into a field of work in my future where I can help other people and make an impact on my community, whether that’s through education, social work, activism, or other forms of public service. I love hiking and taking pictures so I’m very blessed to live in a place so connected to nature. I also love to read, watch the news, go shopping, and go to concerts. I hope I can bring valuable ideas to the table as a member of the YDI Student Advisory Council and I’m excited to get to work!

Adya Gupta (She/Her)

I am Adya Gupta and I am a grade 10 student and a Pre-IB student at Abbotsford Senior Secondary. I decided to join the YDI because I take a keen interest in youth mental health, and I am passionate about ensuring that all ages feel safe in their environment. These past few years I have been involved with the Youth Ambassador program with the foundry, Nation of Wellness (NoW) with IMPACT, and the Greenhouse initiative which is a learning journey proposal for the use of cannabis and issues relating to youth mental health in schools. These programs are all related to mental health and I can offer my unique perspectives and knowledge to the program. In my school, I am a part of the Drumline, key club and leadership program. Outside of school, I am part of the Air Cadets where I am constantly developing my leadership skills by being a role model for the younger cadets, public speaking, discipline, teamwork and collaboration. In previous years I have participated in public speaking competitions to district levels raising awareness about the negative effects of social media on youth and the lack of sanitation in third world countries. I am a very outgoing person who is always looking for ways to improve and help others thrive. My plans for the future are to attend UBC and become a doctor. I am very excited to gain a better understanding of mental health, contribute to the YDI and meet new people!

Annabelle Trobak (She/Her)

Hi my name is Annabelle, I am a grade 11 student from J.V Humphries school in Kaslo. I am planning on travelling after high school, and eventually going into journalism, as I am passionate about sharing people’s stories. I am also very passionate about soccer, and play in a local league as well as coach kids from ages 3-13. I take pride in being the Spirit Coordinator at my school and have an amazing time planning events for my fellow students along with raising our school spirit! In my spare time I enjoy playing guitar, writing, and doing art, as well as hanging out with my friends. I am super excited to be a part of the YAC and can’t wait to see where this leads me!

Christie Liu (She/Her)

Hi! I’m Christie and I am currently a Grade 11 student at Seaquam Secondary School in North Delta. I joined the YDI Youth Advisory Council as a way of getting involved in research and discussions about youth mental health and wellbeing. I believe that our current society continues to carry a certain stigma towards mental health, and thus I am passionate about supporting the destigmatization of mental health, as well as the introduction of more resources to support youth mental health! In my spare time, I am part of two youth orchestras, in which I play oboe. I also enjoy playing violin and piano, doing digital art, cooking, and playing video games! At school, I am the leader of the mathematics club, and I enjoy learning about history and languages. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a neuroscience research academy, where I was able to discuss with other students and university professors about the brain from biological, psychological, and mental health standpoints, which I found to be very interesting. I am very excited to work with the YDI Youth Advisory Council team this year!

Haneefah Abu (She/Her)

Haneefah is a 16 year old, grade 12 student currently living in the small town of Smithers, BC. She was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and recently moved to Canada. She enjoys playing sports like volleyball and basketball and coaches the younger teams whenever she has time. After graduation, She plan’s to attend university and pursue a career in the sciences. She was leaning towards being a doctor, but can’t choose between the countless, interesting options, so its all up in the air for her. Haneefah was interested in the YDI because she wants to be an advocate for youth mental health and overall wellbeing. She understands the many pressures facing young people, and sees the council as an opportunity to be involved within her community.

Joseph Tsai (He/Him)

Hi there! I’m Jo! I have 8 sibilings, and am currently in grade 11 attending the local highschool in Port Alberni, on Vancouver Island. I decided to join the YDI since I think mental health and the overall wellbeing of students is a very important subject, and I feel that the YDI has the potential to make a difference and an impact on their lives. I really love helping others, but also love producing art, wether it be through painting and drawing or cooking and baking. I love the amazing process and feelings of turning blank slates into incredible and bueatiful things. Currently I am employed as a carpentry apprentice. After highschool I hope to attend SFU in order to obtain a degree in art, another one in education, and possibly one more in the culinary arts, so that I may pursue a career as an secondary education art (and maybe also culinary) teacher, combining the things I love.

Katy Mezei (She/Her)

My name is Katy and I’m a grade 11 student at Burnaby Mountain Secondary. I have always loved the sciences, and after recovering from a concussion, I have become very interested in neurology, the complexity of brain science, and how brain chemistry affects your mood and actions. I’m very glad to be joining this group to not only give my perspective on mental health, but to learn from my peers. I also love music, musical theatre, and the performing arts overall. I really like the creativity that comes with making and performing music. As a member of my school’s student council, I enjoy creating opportunities for students to make happy and joyful memories that will last with them throughout their lives. Our high school years, and our youth years overall, can be a very stressful and overwhelming phase. I joined YDI because the subject of mental health is very important to me and I believe that everyone should have access to the support that they need. Mental health is a large and critical aspect of everybody’s well being, and I want to help reduce the stigma surrounding this topic. Covid-19 and the restriction of in-person connection over this past year and a half has changed the way youth interact and socialize with one another. This has greatly affected the mental health of youth and I am looking forward to providing my perspective and insight on these issues. I am very happy to be joining the YDI Youth Advisory Council!

Kennice Wong(She/Her)

Hi! My name is Kennice, my pronouns are she/her/hers, and I am a high school student! I derive joy from connecting with a wide variety of people in my community, which is why I wanted to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council! I would describe myself as extroverted, empathetic, and enthusiastic. I am involved with many clubs and organizations because I feel fulfilled by spreading kindness and making a positive impact in other people’s lives. In addition, I am also involved with a lot of social justice advocacy, specifically with mental health, sexual violence awareness, anti-racism, and 2SLGBTQIA+ education. In fact, I co-wrote a children’s book about racial identity with my youth-led, charitable organization, “Framing The Future.” Our book is called Kenna’s Birthday Wish and is inspired by my struggles with internalized racism, as a child. I am also passionate about animal welfare and lead the animal rescue club at my school. My favourite subjects in school are English, Social Studies, and Drama. In the future, I plan on studying to become a teacher or educator. In my free time, I enjoy outdoor activities and spending quality time with my friends. I hope to spread joy to every person I meet. 🙂

Lauren Matties (She/Her)

I am a grade 11 student attending an integrated art school where you will often find me painting, tutoring kids, or playing my saxophone! I enjoy all the academics equally and my favourite science is chemistry. Hobbies of mine include DMA, photography, painting/drawing, reading, and writing. Summer is my favourite season but Christmas is my favourite holiday! I don’t know what I will be when I’m older but I am currently interested in psychology and becoming a clinical psychologist! A fun fact about me is that I own a small parrot, and I don’t have a favourite colour. I decided to join the YDI because I felt like it was important to help contribute research into mental health anyway that I can. I want my generation and the generations after me to get the support they need so they can live without their mental health holding them back. I understand that anxiety, depression, and other illnesses are real issues that can affect anyone and understanding how to help others impacted by those is something I believe everyone should know. I am excited to be a part of the YDI team and will help support my team anyway I can.

Lauren Palmer (She/Her)

I am currently in grade 11 at ASIA (Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts) Sumas Mountain, and live in Abbotsford. I decided to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I was very interested in the information that was shared with me regarding the YDI, and I knew it would be an amazing thing to be part of. I think that the survey is such a valuable resource for helping youth, and I am thrilled to be able to be involved. My time is filled with school work primarily, and outside of that I am often in rehearsal for our school musical working on choreography for all the dances. Although I have many hobbies, the one that takes up the most of my time is dance. Aside from that, I also find joy in playing violin, volunteering at my church, and hanging out with my friends, of course. Before Covid you could find me at practically every community event I could get into, and outside Abbotsford City Hall with a small group protesting to raise awareness about the climate crisis. Although I have no idea what I want to do with my life yet, I know I want to work in service of others, and help people in any way I can.

Malia Mercado (She/Her)

Hello! My name is Malia Mercado. I am 16 years old and in Grade 11 at Samuel Robertson Technical. I currently live in Maple Ridge which is located on the traditional territory of the Katzie and Kwantlen First Nation. I am a proud first-generation, Filipino-Canadian girl. I love learning. School has always been one of my strong suits as different concepts come easily to me. Therefore, I would like to share that love of learning with others so that is why I would like to become a teacher after high school. When I found out about the opportunity to become a YDI ambassador I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. I have younger twin brothers, one of which struggles with mental health issues. I know first-hand how important mental health is. As the eldest sister, I have learned to be patient with those who need a little more help but also make sure they don’t feel less than they are. I want to help those who feel like my brother and make them feel heard. Some of my hobbies include playing music and basketball. I am currently teaching myself how to play ukulele, guitar and piano and I have played basketball since the age of eight through school and basketball clinics. Basketball has taught me how to work and communicate well in a team setting. I haven’t done anything life-changing yet but I hope that by becoming a YDI ambassador that will change.

Nayimah Lewis (She/Her)

Nayimah Lewis is 16 and is currently in grade 11, attending an integrated arts school. She is an honour roll student who absolutely loves school, and enjoys being an active member in its community. She is heavily involved in the music program, where she sings and plays trumpet in the 2 jazz ensembles. She is passionate about music and believes that it can be used to inspire and communicate important topics such as mental health, and other social issues. Nayimah joined the YDI because she believes that talking about mental health and wellness is what will help remove the stigma around it. She wants to be someone who can advocate for those who are too afraid to speak up. She is passionate about helping others and loves being involved in the community in any way she can. Along with being involved at school, Nayimah also loves volunteering (especially with kids), such a helping out at camps, being a part of student leadership at her youth, and now also being a member of the YAC. Nayimah doesn’t have any plans for after high school just yet, but she hopes to go to post secondary and to go into a career where she can help and inspire others.

Qaleem Rawji (He/Him)

Qaleem Rawji is a 16 year old student at Sentinel Secondary School in West Vancouver. Within his school community, Qaleem was a member of Student Council and a member of the World Partnership Club which raises money to fight global poverty. He spends his time outside of school participating in Model United Nations conferences, in cities like New York and Boston where he represents his delegation at international conferences. Qaleem is a strong advocate about human rights as his goal is to be a lawyer when he is older. Additionally, Qaleem volunteers his time to coach soccer to youth ages 4-13, and at his mosque where he sets up events for talent shows and senior events. He has played competitive ball hockey and soccer since the age of 10 as well as enjoys playing golf. An experience that has shaped his perspective and changed his outlook is when his family went on a trip to East Africa in the summer of 2019, and visited an orphanage in Uganda, where he and three others collected and donated used sports equipment and clothing to the youth living in these orphanages. Qaleem volunteered to be part of the YDI so he could share his first hand perspective about problems youth face in their daily life.

Rufina Aniyador (She/Her )

My name is Rufina I lived in Nigeria, West Africa for most of my years on Earth. I came here to Canada in 2018. I now live with my aunty and attend Bulkley Valley Christian School .

Sierra Lee (She/Her )

I am a grade 11 student from North Vancouver passionate about mental health awareness. I am also a French Immersion student and I enjoy speaking French. I joined the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I am always looking for ways to get involved in opportunities that support destigmatizing mental health and making mental health a bigger part of the community. I also enjoy volunteering and getting involved with different youth leadership groups, and I have recently started getting more involved with supporting and improving youth well-being and I hope to continue with this. Recently, I have been working on a project with other youth that focuses on bringing high school students together in “talking circles” to discuss their experiences with mental health. We have been connecting with school counsellors and other people involved in schools, and the goal is to get this program implemented in our high schools one day! I am also a competitive Hip Hop dancer (which is often surprising to most people because I am an introvert). I love to express myself through dance, and dance has allowed me to challenge myself and explore a different side of me. In my free time, I also enjoy reading, writing and public speaking. Over the pandemic, I’ve also taken an interest in cooking. In the future, I hope to go into social sciences and study psychology or social work at university!

Stephanie Quon (She/Her )

Hi everyone! My name is Stephanie and I am currently a second year electrical engineering student at UBC. I chose to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council as I am passionate about mental health and wellbeing and am interested in learning more about research. Outside of school, I volunteer with the BC Crisis Center, UBC’s AMS Peer Support Service, and the Engineering Undergraduate Society’s Mental Health and Wellness Committee. I am also currently working part-time in a lab at UBC, working on a project evaluating stigma in the use of social robots with older adults.

Zoey Thom-Lucy (She/her)

My name is Zoey Thom-Lucy and I am in Grade 11. I come from the small town of Burns Lake in Northern B.C. I have joined YDI because I feel like I can offer a unique and diverse perspective due to my experiences in rural communities. My passions include Alpine Skiing, Mountain Biking, and Abstract Painting and I am an active participant in the Burns Lake Mountain Biking Association! I have been a youth soccer assistant coach and I enjoy participating in community events. In my Grade 10 year I started a group called Girls Support Girls which supports/talks about social issues and includes anyone of any gender or sexual orientation that feels like they would benefit. My current plans include attending UBC to study Marine Biology, as I have a curiosity and interest in learning about extinct whales! If I don’t make it in the Marine Biology world, my backup plan is to live in New Zealand and enjoy the nature there. I am looking forward to enhancing my understanding and contributing to this project.

Provincial Advisory Board

Alayna Ewert (She/Her)

Evaluation Lead; Foundry BC

Alayna Ewert is the Evaluation Lead at Foundry Central Office (Providence Health Care). In her role at Foundry, Alayna provides strategic leadership and evaluation expertise to guide the organization’s overarching performance measurement framework. She also steers the evaluation strategy across Foundry research projects. Alayna has completed a Bachelor of Science at St Francis Xavier University and a Master of Public Health at Simon Fraser University and has over seven years of experience working with health authorities, non-profit organizations and academic institutions including the Fraser Health Authority, the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction (SFU) and the Human Early Learning Partnership (UBC). Her work has focused on addressing systemic, health and well-being challenges across the population and understanding the impact of health service interventions, particularly for children and youth. She is passionate about leveraging data to improve health care systems for youth and interested in working alongside young people, their families and communities to continue transforming mental health and substance use services.

Annie Smith (She/Her)

Executive Director; McCreary Centre Society

Annie has been the Executive Director of the McCreary Centre Society since 2006. Based in Vancouver, Canada the Society is best known for its’ BC Adolescent Health Survey and is a non-profit organization committed to improving the health of BC youth through community based research, evaluation and youth participation projects. Annie holds a masters from Harvard and is a PhD from Sheffield Hallam University.

David Starr

Principal, Terry Fox Secondary School; School District 43 (Coquitlam)

I have been a teacher and principal for the past 25 years. I have experience with refugee and community education. I am a member of the board of Canada Scores, a charity that provides soccer, poetry and leadership programming to vulnerable youth in three school districts. I am a published author with ten books. I am a graduate of SFU (History and English Lit minor) as well as UBC (B.Ed Secondary and M.Ed Educational Leadership. I was named one of the UBC Top 100 Faculty of Education Graduates

Dzung Vo (He/Him)

Head, Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics; BC Children's Hospital & University of British Columbia

Dzung X. Vo, MD, is a pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine, and a Clinical Associate Professor and Division Head of the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, at BC Children’s Hospital and the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Vo earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed his residency in Pediatrics and fellowship in Adolescent Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. His main clinical and research areas of interest are in stress and health, resilience, care and advocacy with vulnerable and marginalized adolescents, integrative health, and mindfulness-based interventions with youth and with health care professionals. In partnership with Dr. Jake Locke, Dr. Vo co-developed MARS-A (Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents), an eight-week mindfulness training program for adolescents with depressive symptoms, with or without other co-occurring chronic illness or chronic pain. Dr. Vo is the author of The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time. Dr. Vo serves on the Board of Directors for the Mindfulness in Education Network (MiEN). Dr. Vo is also interested in health disparities, cultural competence, and the health of marginalized and vulnerable youth populations. Learn more about Dr. Vo’s work in mindfulness at He is the founding Director of the BC Children’s Hospital Centre for Mindfulness, which has the vision of supporting “Mindful community, compassionate care” throughout BC Children’s Hospital and beyond.

Emilie Sia (She/Her)

Senior Economist, Ministry of Education

Emilie Sia has worked as acting director for the Outreach, Analytics and Reporting branch in the Ministry of Education. In her current role, she is the lead of the Student Learning Survey (SLS) which is administered annually to students, principals/vice principals, teachers/staff and parents in B.C. public schools. Emilie manages the evaluation of key ministry programs which includes erase (expect respect & a safe education), mental health in schools strategy, gangs and guns and SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity). Emilie previously worked at B.C. Statistics where she developed the B.C. immigrant model which outlined factors contributing to their sense of belonging and decision to stay as part of informing policy and program development. She had managed and worked on several research projects focusing on developing evaluation strategies related to engagement, work environment, and retention. Emilie is deeply committed and passionate about improving student success, enabling every learner to maximize their potential and helping them lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Evelyn Stewart (She/Her)

Professor of Psychiatry, UBC

Director of Child, Youth and Reproductive Mental Health, BCCH Research

Dr. Evelyn Stewart is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist and a clinical and neuroscience researcher. She is a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia (UBC) and is the Research Director of Child, Youth and Reproductive Mental Health at BC Children’s Hospital. She has authored over 100 original papers, reviews and chapters. Dr. Stewart has had a longstanding goal of involving youth towards optimization of mental health.

Faizel Rawji (He/Him)

District Principal; School District 48 (Sea to Sky)

Faizel Rawji is currently the Head of International Education for the Sea to Sky School District and previously served as Principal with the Surrey School District. He has received several awards including, Canada’s Outstanding Principals Award and the Surrey Now Community Leaders Award. He has contributed to the British Columbia Education Plan and has been interviewed by the CBC on how this plan will be put into action in schools. He has recently co-authored a book being published by Pacific Press at the University of British Columbia called “Insider’s Guide to K-12 Education in British Columbia”. Faizel has advised the Province in areas ranging from Technology Education to Healthy Living Standards. He served as an advisor for the Premier’s Technology Council, which helped shape the future of the BC Education Plan. He has been the keynote presenter for Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education and has presented on numerous education topics across BC. Faizel traveled to Africa to present a week-long workshop to Headmasters of the Aga Khan Education Services on school leadership. He recently served as the President of the Surrey Principals and Vice Principals Association and is featured on the BC Principals and Vice Principals webpage. Faizel also traveled to India to attend the International TED conference. He has produced a number of webinars to educate parents and to give guidance on topical issues in education.

Jeremy Church (He/Him)

District Principal of Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health/Principal of Mountainside Secondary School

Jeremy Church is currently the Principal of Mountainside Secondary, an innovative secondary school with on-site integrated Mental Health services. He is also the District Principal for Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health, and plays a key community and school district capacity building role. He has contributed significantly to Child and Youth Mental Health reviews in the Province of BC.

Joanne Schroeder (She/Her)

Director, External Partnerships; Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP-UBC)

Joanne is a settler on the traditional territories of the K’omoks People on Vancouver Island. She is a mother of 4 and grandmother of 3. Joanne recently “retired” from her role as Executive Director at the Comox Valley Child Development Association and has returned to the Human Early Learning Partnership as Director of External Partnerships. She began her work at HELP in 2000 and previously served as Deputy Director. In her initial role at HELP she developed and led their knowledge translation activities. She was also the Provincial Advisor to “Children First”, a community development project that worked in 45 BC communities and was the National Lead Fellow for the Canadian Council for Early Child Development. Joanne is passionate about building better systems and policies for children and youth, through leveraging innovative practice, community leadership and research.

Kelly Angelius

Manager - School Mental Health; Ministry of Children and Family Development, Child and Youth Mental Health Policy

Kelly Angelius, RSW, MSW, has worked in the field of child and youth mental health for the past 25 years with the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). Throughout the first 10 years she worked directly with children and families as a child and youth mental health clinician. Kelly then joined the Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH) policy branch in Victoria as a Provincial Consultant and was involved in the implementation of the BC’s 5-Year Child and Youth Mental Health Plan. For the past 15 years she has worked in the role of Manager, School Mental Health, in the CYMH policy branch, leading the provincial coordination and implementation of anxiety prevention programming in BC schools. Kelly is passionate about the relationships she has built through the collaborative work with educators and stakeholders to improve the mental health outcomes in children and youth.

Kenneth Tupper

Director, Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction; BC Ministry of Health

Kenneth Tupper, Ph.D., is Director, Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction in the British Columbia Ministry of Health, where he assists in the development, implementation and monitoring of provincial health policy to prevent and respond to problematic drug use and associated harms. Kenneth is also an Adjunct Professor in the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia and an Adjunct Professor in the School of Child and Youth Care at the University of Victoria. His research interests include public, professional and school-based drug education; cross-cultural and historical uses of drugs; psychedelic studies; and creating healthy public policy to maximize benefits and minimize harms from psychoactive substances. Kenneth has published in numerous peer reviewed academic journals, presented at international health and drug policy conferences, and has twice been appointed to Canadian delegations to high-level United Nations international drug policy meetings.

Liza McGuinness

Research Manager; UBC School of Nursing

Liza’s (MA, anthropology, University of Victoria) research interests include health equity, community-based participatory research, chronic illness, Indigenous health, youth engagement and mental health promotion. She has managed numerous qualitative and community-based research projects with a focus on chronic illnesses including hepatitis C, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, and mental health promotion. Before joining the Agenda Collaborative as Research Manager at the UBC School of Nursing, Liza was project manager of Hepatitis Education Canada at the BC Centre for Disease control from 2002-2020. She is also the mother of twin teenage girls.

Mathew Fleury (He/Him)

Manager - Research and Knowledge Exchange, First Nations Health Authority Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University

Mathew Fleury (he/his) or is an Indigenous Social Worker, community-based researcher, and public health professional. Mathew is nēhiyawak (Plains Cree), and as a proud member of one of the founding families of the Métis Nation, he has deep roots in the Red River Valley of Manitoba. Throughout his work, he draws from his lived, academic, and professional experiences in advancing grassroots approaches within research and policy. Mathew is passionate about issues impacting Indigenous Peoples, including harm reduction, mental health, and accessibility. He has also continued to promote the inclusion of those who, like him, have faced marginalization. With lived and living experiences and as a queer Two-Spirited individual, Mathew occupies the intersection between innovative advocacy, meaningful community engagement, and transformative legislation. His unwavering passion for human rights and culture has earned him a new name, proffered by Elders in his community: Gimewan Niimi (Rain Dancer). Buoyed by a vision for inclusive and impactful experiences that find ground in the teachings of the Cree and Michif peoples, Mathew seeks to continue to stand as a paragon of diversity and resilience, sowing the seeds of Indigenization, resurgence, and decolonization for generations to come.

Michelle Cianfrone

Senior Project Manager - Health Literacy and Health Promotion; BC Children's Hospital

Michelle Cianfrone is a Senior Project Manager with the Health Promotion and Health Literacy team at BC Children’s Hospital. In this role, Michelle oversees the development of provincial initiatives to enhance the health and well-being of children, youth and families across British Columbia. Her portfolio focuses on innovative solutions to improve youth mental health and strategies to promote mental wellness in the school setting, using a whole-school community approach. Recent initiatives include the ongoing development of an online resource hub for youth mental health and wellness at; capacity building resources and events for school professionals in rural and remote communities; and youth-engagement activities to address stigma and improve mental health literacy in communities across BC. With fifteen years of experience in health literacy, health promotion and education, Michelle has broad knowledge of project and program management, stakeholder engagement, knowledge exchange and evaluation. She is passionate about improving the health and well-being of populations using evidence-informed, upstream, and collaborative approaches that engage diverse stakeholder groups. Michelle has a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley.

Nathan Ngieng (He/Him)

Director of Instruction, Learning Support Services, Abbotsford School District #34

Nathan Ngieng is the Director of Instruction for Learning Support Services with the Abbotsford School District. He has been an educator in the BC public school system for the last 20 years in a number of different roles, at both the school and district level. Nathan is currently involved with a number of provincial organizations and initiatives, including BC PBIS (Positive Behaviour Interventions and Supports), TYDE (Transitioning Youth with Disabilities and Employment) and BC CAISE (Council of Administrators of Inclusive Support in Education).

Nick Seredick (He/Him)

Vice-Principal; Pacific Rim School District #70

Nick Seredick is currently a Vice Principal at the Eighth Avenue Learning Centre in SD 70 Pacific Rim. Nick graduated from the University of British Columbia with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees, and later pursued a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Vancouver Island University. His 17 years in education have seen him work in both traditional and alternative education settings. A strong believer in finding ways to educate students outside of the walls of a classroom, Nick continues to develop experiential learning opportunities as a way of engaging students to maximize their academic potential. Nick works collaboratively with a wide range of service providers to ensure students are supported both at school and in the community. While not at work, Nick can be found fishing local waterways, hiking trails, or coaching youth basketball.

Scott Carlson (He/Him)

Director, Child and Youth Partnerships Planning; BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Scott is from Campbell River and has a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a Master of Public Policy. Scott decided to join the public policy world over the three years he spent leading workshops and projects with youth in rural and remote communities in Yukon Territory, which fuelled a desire to seek systemic and comprehensive solutions to the challenges identified by those young people. Since then he’s joined the BC public service, and applied this lens to some major policy initiatives, including developing a provincial chronic pain strategy and supporting the expansion of Foundry centres across B.C.

Stephen Smith (He/Him)

Director, Life Course Prevention; BC Ministry of Health

Stephen Smith is the Director of Life Course Prevention in the BC Ministry of Health’s Population and Public Health Division. In this capacity, Stephen is responsible for three program areas within BC’s health system: the Lifetime Prevention Schedule for primary care providers; health promotion for older adults and seniors through the Ministry’s Healthy Aging program; and, health promotion for children and youth in the setting of schools through the Healthy Schools program. Prior to taking on this role, Stephen was the Director, Social/Emotional Health and Resiliency at the Ministry. His portfolio included policy oversight of upstream mental health promotion and prevention efforts focused on building individual and community strengths, capacities and resilience, while working towards reduced incidence, prevalence and severity of mental disorders. Stephen worked with partners across sectors and systems in order to encourage collaborative action, and support the exchange and application of knowledge as it relates to policy and program development. Such efforts were positioned to take advantage of key opportunities for intervention across the lifespan, and in important settings such as the home, workplace and schools. Stephen also previously supported the Ministry’s efforts focused on addressing vulnerabilities to blood-borne diseases and reducing harms associated with substance use.

Tanya Walton (She/Her)

District Helping Teacher for Counsellors/Safe and Caring Schools

Tanya Walton has been teaching and counselling for 29 years. She has had the opportunity to work in elementary, middle, secondary, and alternative schools. Currently she is a district Helping teacher for counsellors/safe and caring schools.

Past Members

Lab Members

Shabnam Raufi, Directed Studies Student
Ren Lo, BES, Research Assistant/Project Coordinator

Rachel Goosen, MA – Research Project Coordinator
Qudrat Aujla – Directed Studies Student
Sarah Pendreigh, BA (Hons.) – Practicum Student
Amilya Ladak, BSc (Hons.) – Research Assistant
Gaelen Snell, MSc  – Research Project Coordinator
Ladan Fathi, MSc – Research Assistant

Caralyn Vossen, BSc – Directed Studies Student 

Michelle Pang, MPH – Practicum Student

Sean Yang, BA (Hons.) – Research Assistant & Honours Student

Youth Advisory Council

Aadi Kaur
Alyssa Wellar
Caila Tymchuk
Charmaine Lee
Jace Lamoreux
Jacob Campbell
Logan Isfeld
Maya Benenteso