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

Jenna Whitehead (she/her), PhD

Implementation Coordinator

Dr. Jenna Whitehead is an educational psychology researcher and consultant. She earned her PhD and MA in Human Development, Learning, and Culture (HDLC) and her BSc in behavioural neuroscience from the University of British Columbia. Her academic expertise centres on the social and emotional development of children and adolescents, specifically the role of teacher mindfulness and well-being, and student-teacher relationships in promoting children’s and adolescents’ well-being, prosociality, and thriving in school. Dr. Whitehead has over a decade of experience coordinating large-scale research projects in elementary, middle, and high-schools, as the lab and research coordinator in Dr. Kimberly Schonert-Reichl’s Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Lab at UBC. She currently works as the implementation coordinator with the CHART Lab,   an evaluation specialist consultant with Child Health BC (PHSA), and a freelance research and educational consultant. 

Rachel Goossen (she/her), MA

Project Coordinator

Rachel Goossen is a research assistant and project coordinator with experience in K-12 education management and qualitative, community-based research. She earned her MA in Educational Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2019. Having worked in public education, non-profit community organizations and research institutions since 2011, Rachel has a dedicated interest to understand — and ultimately improve — systems affecting child and youth well-being in North America.

Angela Low (she/her), PhD

Project Manager

Dr. Angela Low is a researcher, educator and consultant who is committed to helping to create a world where all children, youth and their families have what it takes within and around them to enjoy mental health and well-being, even in times of adversity and change. Her research and practice focus on fostering the mental and emotional competence and resilience of children and the adults around them, and helping to create nurturing communities where children can thrive. She has a special interest in the role of parent well-being- part of her recent research focuses on parents’ experiences of shame and guilt in the context of parenting education.

Dr. Angela Low is also an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Education at UBC and a freelance educational consultant. She has almost 2 decades of experience working in mental health and emotional intelligence promotion across community, government and private organizations. She lives in Vancouver with her husband Derek, kids Sianna and Rhysa and a lovebug of a dog named Milo.


Jorge Andrés Delgado-Ron (he/him), MD, MPPGA, MSc

Data Analyst

Andrés is an experienced data analyst with a background in public health and epidemiology. Holding a Master of Science from the University of British Columbia and a medical degree from Universidad Tecnológica Equinoccial, Ecuador, Jorge has been actively involved in public health research since 2017. His work primarily focuses on epidemiological data analysis, utilizing R programming. He currently works at SFU’s Faculty of Health Sciences under the supervision of Dr. Travis Salway and Dr. Hasina Samji.


Judy Wu (she/her), MPH, BSc

Doctoral Student

Judy is a current PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Samji. She previously completed her MPH and BSc at the University of British Columbia. 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 Kaufmann (she/her), BSc

MSc Student

Julia is an MSc student in the Faculty of Health Sciences 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 psychology research and peer support programming. Currently, Julia is studying the intersection of knowledge mobilization and youth-engaged research with the goal of supporting youth voice and well-being. As a research assistant with the CHART lab, Julia focuses on knowledge mobilization of the YDI and other projects.

Tanushree Kunwar (she/her), BSc

Research Assistant

Tanushree 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 Carleton University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science Combined Honours Degree, majoring in Neuroscience with a combined honours in Biology. Her undergraduate research focused on the efficacy of various pharmacological interventions for mental illnesses. While working as a team leader and mentor at the Science Student Success Center at Carleton University, she noted that many of the youth experienced poor mental health. Since then, she has become interested in focussing on the upstream determinants of mental health and on mental health and well-being promotion. Tanushree is excited to contribute to promoting youth mental health and well-being in BC with the CHART lab and to continue to be an advocate for mental health, especially for South Asian youth. Outside of work and school, Tanushree enjoys reading and spending time in nature.

Giulia de Arruda Maluf (she/her)

Research Assistant

Giulia is a Master of Public Health (MPH) student at the University of British Columbia (UBC). She previously completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil) and a Residency Program in Mental Health at Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP – Brazil). She has worked as a psychologist in community-based mental health services and her clinical experience has shown her the importance of looking upstream and reflecting on the social, environmental, and economic factors that impact individuals’ and communities’ mental health. Giulia is passionate about health promotion and is committed to reducing stigma and working to improve health equity.  She is thrilled to be part of the CHART Lab team and contribute to youth’s well-being, learning from young people themselves the path forward to better support their thriving.

Youth Advisory Council

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!

Anika Rievaj

My name is Anika Rievaj and I live in Windermere B.C in School District No.6. I am in grade 12 and I am the oldest of 4 kids in my family. I am very active and outdoorsy and enjoy cross country skiing in the winter. In the summer my family and I enjoy hiking, camping and backpacking. In the spring and summer I train for cross country and do some running races and triathlons around the valley. When I am not outside, I enjoy reading and playing piano. At school I am a part of our Student Council and Climate Club as well as various school sports such as mountain biking and running club. I am an introvert most of the time, but I am also able to contribute my ideas and speak up when I feel the need to do so. I have a passion for leadership and I am always on the lookout for new opportunities to get together with youth to colaberate. I love spreading awareness to youth and I am always looking for ways to get more youth involved and informed about topics that concern them. I am looking forward to being a part of the YDI YAC this year and to be able to spread awareness about what they do to my community.

Annie Wu (she/her)

Hi! My name is Annie Wu and I am currently a grade 12 student at Moscrop Secondary School. I joined the YDI to get involved and contribute to the research on youth mental well-being. When I discovered the YDI and its goal to find the right support for young people, I knew that this was something I was interested in. Mental health plays a huge factor in our lives. I understand how it can be a huge struggle, trying to find a balance between internal conflicts and external hardships, especially for youths who are facing a lot of change in their lives. I am deeply grateful to have the opportunity to be a voice for others and be a part of the research at the YDI. I am eager to help bring on the right resources to support youth and raise more awareness of mental health. In my spare time, I love taking pictures of sunsets, baking, crocheting, playing soccer, and tinkering with technology. I also enjoy meeting new people and creating a difference in my community. Currently, I am the president of Moscrop’s student government and I am involved in many regional and school-wide clubs. I am also a District Ambassador for the Youth Substance Use Advisory Committee and the District Council. This year, I hope to create many events to bring the community together and spread awareness about key issues. In the future, I hope to pursue post-secondary education in Sciences or Technology, but I am still exploring the different options. I am thrilled to be a part of the YDI Youth Advisory Council, and I look forward to helping foster positive youth development and the well-being of everyone! <3

Aristotle Zwinge (they/them)

I’m currently attending grade 12 in Abbotsford. I have a passion for making others feel heard and for youth mental health. So far, I’ve been invovled in my school’s student voice team, which then lead to me joining the district’s street data initiative. My work within these spaces lead to me speaking on a KIVA panel about my experiences at school for Dr. Shane Safir and the district’s administrators. Nearing the end of the last school year, one of my art teachers told me about the YAC and asked if I’d like to apply. I was told that the YAC was a place for youth to have their voices and concerns heard, I knew that this would be a place for me. My dream career is to teach art at the university level. Eventually, I’d also like to travel the world, my top 3 places I want to visit being Vietnam, Romania and Argentina. In my free time, I enjoy reading (specifically contemporary), writing (poetry), collecting crystals (amythst, calcite and bismuth are my favourites) and practicing art (painting, inking, pottery, the works). I’m excited to see what work is done this year and how working with everyone turns out. Looking forward to the positive change we make this year.

Awin Bakhtyar Ali (she/her)

Hello, my name is Awin. I’m 17 years old and I’m grade 12. I’ve decided to join YDI because i know there’s a lot of Youth that they are going through a hard time with their mental health and many other problems so as a youth I decided to join and help them! And make their life easier and happier! Also YDI is a great place to learn and experience new things, and try to help others. I have a lot of experience with extracurricular and other activities that I have been involved with and helped people! I feel more happier and more comfortable when i know that i can help people. My hobbies are ( drawing and photography..etc ). I’m gonna help youth as much as I can!

Ben Tarling (he/him)

Hi, my name is Ben Tarling! I’m a Grade 11 student who lives in Coquitlam, a suburb of Vancouver. I think advocacy for youth mental health is especially pertinent in times like these, which is one of the main reasons I decided to join the YAC. As head of the Leadership Club at my school, I enjoy organizing events for like-minded youth and collaborating with adults to make our school a better place for my peers. In a world where it seems like so many bad things are happening, I firmly believe that instead of always looking back at what we’ve lost, we need to look ahead at what we can still save. Instilling a culture of optimism and acceptance in today’s youth is the first step on a long journey that we urgently need to take. Outside of the YAC, I am a competitive rock climber, and in my spare time I enjoy reading, writing, photography, playing music, and hanging out at the climbing gym. I can’t wait to see what the YAC can accomplish together this year!

Brittany Jin (she/her)

Hello! My name is Brittany and I am in Grade 11. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia. I decided to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I am tremendously keen on improving the mental health of the people around me. In addition, I also want to learn more about mental health advocacy through my fellow youth advisors. My favourite sports are basketball and badminton. I love challenging my father to a badminton match, in which a win was always guaranteed. Just kidding, he is, unfortunately, better than me. However, basketball was a sport where I could enjoy the sweet taste of victory against my father. Some other activities I enjoy during my free time are reading, drawing and watching shows. My favourite genres are novels, horror and just non-fiction in general. One particular book that I am rereading right now from my favourite selection are books are “Crime and Punishment” By Fyodor Dostoevsky. In the future, I hope to continue my love of STEM, especially physics and chemistry. That, I hope, would be accomplished through the means of higher education. I just hope future Brittany still finds the excitement that comes with the exploration of science that accompanies me today whenever I do so.

Carmen Feng (she/her)

Hi, I’m Carmen Feng and I am entering 11th grade this coming fall. I love to play volleyball, read, and go on hikes with friends. Through channelling my enthusiasm for youth issues and community betterment, I want to truly make a difference in the world where we give young people a voice, and thus a platform to speak their truth. I am super excited to be joining this council and even more to see what we will do in the upcoming year (s)!

Daniel Zihan Chen

Hi there!! I am a grade 11 student from Vancouver, and hmm…where do we begin… I joined the YDI because I am very curious about how young people are doing in our community, and I am thrilled by the potential of bettering the lives of BC children through our actions. Call it idealistic, but I genuinely believe that we can make a positive impact on the lives of BC’s young ones through our collective actions. Now, I may come across as introverted, sporting a somewhat quiet and serious demeanour, but once you get to know me, you’ll find me pretty easygoing. I love being part of a community. I am in the choir and the basketball team, and I’ve been on the student council for two years: first as a grade representative and then as the Vancouver District Student Council (VDSC) representative. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of initiating and being a part of various projects, and each experience has left me more and more impressed by what can be achieved when people come together. In my time on the student council, we had numerous events ranging from fundraisers to cultural festivals and educational seminars, through which I have grown enormously. I also co-founded the mock trial club at our school which consists mostly of younger students. Witnessing their growth in writing and presentation skills and watching them rise to the top 5 in national competitions is a source of immense pride. The YDI and YAC struck me as the perfect opportunity to learn as well as to create bigger impacts. In my free time, you can find me playing basketball and daydreaming (haha). My dream for the future is to have a career where I can help others and make their lives better. That’s what motivates me.

Erik Crowther (he/him)

Hi! My Name is Erik Crowther and I am currently a 16-year-old Grade 12 student at Brockton School. I was born and currently live in Vancouver, however, I spent the first nine years of my life across the world in blazing hot Australia! I am an avid reader and baker, and love all things Gracie Abrams and Taylor Swift 🙂 Mental Health has always played a huge role in my life, and I’m so happy to be working towards supporting the next generation of youth by being a part of the Youth Advisory Council. In the future, I hope to take what I learn during my time as an Ambassador and apply it to my future career as a therapist and support worker! I’m so excited for this next chapter of my life and the opportunity to work with so many amazing people on the Youth Advisory Council!

Harnoor Dhaliwal (she/her)

I am Harnoor, a grade 12 student in high school from Surrey, BC. I am fond of immersing myself in what I enjoy the most. I consider myself to be a determined and self-motivated individual, and I am excited by the new challenges and opportunities for me to learn from and grow from. I feel like my best self when spending time with my family and friends and making a positive difference in my community. Some of my hobbies include swimming, writing, travelling, and networking. I decided to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because it provides me with the golden opportunity to further contribute to improving the mental health and wellness of youth in my community. Not only that, it allows me to interact and collaborate with like-minded individuals as a team to move towards achieving the same goal in our local communities. As an individual who is passionate about both mental health advocacy and research in the field of mental health, I’m excited to learn more about the research aspects involved within YDI as well!

Isabel Palacios (she/her)

Hi I’m Isabel! I’m from North Vancouver and I’m in grade 12 at Argyle Secondary. I joined the YDI to help figure out and deal with youth issues. I love music and I play the guitar. I also play basketball and snowboard.

Kayra Ozdemir (she/her)

My name is Kayra Ozdemir, I am a 17-year-old Grade 12 student at Brockton School. I currently live in Vancouver. I was born in Istanbul, Turkey. I grew up in Singapore, St. John’s Newfoundland and Labrador, CA, and Panama City, Florida, US. I’ve been playing tennis for 10 years, and have been playing the flute for 8. I love to travel and learn about different cultures, and I also enjoy reading.

Lisa Lei (she/her)

Hi! I’m Lisa a grade 12 student at Moscrop Secondary. I’m a returning member of the YDI because I want to be a part of a change we’ll make together revolutionizing youth mental health.

Lydia Bal (she/her)

Hi, I’m Lydia! I’m currently going into my 12th year of highschool at Ecole Alpha Secondary, Burnaby BC. I joined the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to provide a new perspective on the ways we can combat the stigmas surrounding mental health especially among teens. As someone who struggles with these issues, it’s so lightening to see the different ways each of us can contribute to positive change for youth within the province. Helping others is something I want to continue pursuing in the future, so that’s why I’m hoping to study Forensic Social Work at UBC. Aside from that, I consider myself to be a determined learner, empathetic and kind. When I’m not busy, I like to spend my time reading, journaling in my notebook and watching movies with friends! I’m so thrilled to be working alongside this inspiring team and advocating for youth mental well-being! 🙂

Manvir Kaur Toor (she/her)

Hi! My name is Manvir. I am in 11th grade. Along with that, I am student at Clarence Fulton Secondary which is located in Vernon, BC. In school, I take part in my schools leadership class, which helps me get out of my comfort zone and try new things. One of those new things is taking action, and being a part of something that I enjoy learning about, which was the YDI. The YDI represent everything that I would love to be a part of. I am interested in researching about the various factors that contribute to an individuals mental well-beings. The change that the YDI can make is one of the things I am most looking forward to seeing come to action. This is a great opportunity to learn about the many elements that go into youths mental well-beings, and I am excited you see what being a part of the YDI brings.

Maya Sailland (she/her)

Hi! My name is Maya Sailland and I’m a grade 12 student on Vancouver Island. I play basketball and soccer. I love to read and listen to music. I also enjoy writing poems in my free time. I am very passionate about mental health and social justice. I want to study social justice and sports management at university. I hope that I can help my peers through my work at the YDI.

Mckenna Lawson (she/her)

Hi! I’m Mckenna. Currently, I am in grade 12 at an independent school in North Vancouver. This is my second year on the YDI Youth Advisory Council. I decided to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I want to be an advocate for youth mental health. In my free time, I enjoy reading and writing, and music. My favourite artist is Taylor Swift, and I play the guitar. However, I listen to many different genres of music, ranging from classic rock to alternative indie folk. I don’t have a favourite book (it’s so hard to choose!) but my favourite genres are fantasy and sci-fi/dystopian. My favourite subjects in school are English and Biology, and math is my least favourite subject. In the future, I hope to become a doctor one day. I love travelling and exploring new places. I also enjoy photography, but I am horrible at taking photos with myself in it, which is why I don’t have a picture 🙂

Nicola Knudsen (she/her)

Hi! My name is Nicola, and I am currently in grade 12 at an integrated arts school. In my free time I enjoy baking, making art, and reading books. I have participated in many organizations and clubs that help support youth and the community including Key Club, Student Voice and Student Council. When I heard about the Youth Development Instrument, I thought it sounded like an incredible opportunity that would allow me to make changes to help with youth wellbeing on a larger scale. I hope to be able to advocate for voices that often may not have opportunities to be heard and bring new a perspective on how we can support youth wellbeing. I truly believe that the work that YDI has done, and continues to do is invaluable and it is making a huge impact how mental health and wellbeing is viewed and I am so grateful that I get to be a part of such an incredible team of dedicated and passionate individuals who are working to improve the lives of youth.

Queena (she/her)

I’m Queena and I’m a high schooler at Port Moody Secondary. I was interested in joining the council because it felt like an organization with a local focus for change. I believe there needs to be more direct efforts in offering community and strategies that would aid youth struggling with mental health that doesn’t feel forced and unnatural. I myself find it difficult to approach school counsellors or other forms of aid cause the process felt like an admittance of a problem. Instead, I found help in art and building diverse connections, these are things I hope to promote in the council. In the hobby department, I love music, I think music is amazing, I sing and sometimes play my trumpet and guitar. I love jazz and traditional pop with Frank Sinatra as my life-long idol (he’s in the picture!). On top of music, I enjoy all forms of art, in fact, I enjoy all the arts! Thus, I’m often travelling around metro Vancouver to attend concerts and performances as well as art exhibits and museums. I think it’s beautiful how humanities always crossover and relate to each other even though the reason is simply cause their focus is humans. So, it should be no surprise that I hope to participate in all of it in some way or form in the future.

Sarah Rogge (she/her)

Hi! My name is Sarah Rogge and I am a grade 12 student at Westview Secondary School in Maple Ridge. I am an honour roll student who loves school on occasion, and I am an active member in both my school and community. I have been a part of my school’s leadership program since grade 9 and have led multiple clubs and events around my school. Outside of school, I enjoy volunteering with many different organizations, including my old elementary school, our community’s hospice, and many different mental health and service programs. I am also a part of The Youth Advisory Council with Alisa’s Wish located here in Maple Ridge to help raise awareness for children and youth victims of abuse. I have dedicated my whole high school career to trying to help and support people around me the best that I can whether that be my friends or just people around my community, and hope I can continue to contribute for the rest of my life. “Life is to be enjoyed,” is a quote my grandfather has said to me throughout my life and every day I strive to keep this mindset. This is why I joined the YDI Youth Advisory Council. I believe that everyone should be able to enjoy their life and with being a part of this organization I am confident I can help provide a voice for individuals around my community. I look forward to using this opportunity to help improve the lives of many young people and provide support for their mental health and wellbeing during their high school years and furthermore.

Silas Rosalie Dumont (xe/xem)

Silas is a proudly autistic Grade 12 student from Pitt Meadows, BC. Xe is passionate about sense of community and ways it can be established in youth, as xe believes this is one of the best ways to improve mental well-being and the ways we choose to operate in society. Xe enjoys playing piano, singing, practising beadwork, reading up on linguistics, and writing poetry in xyr spare time. Xe has spoken French since the age of 2 and is learning Nēhiyawēwin (Plains Cree).

Susie Black

Hello! My name is Susie, I am 16 in grade 11, and I’m from Victoria. I play volleyball, and enjoy going to the gym. I play piano and do musical theatre, and enjoy all things music related (Especially Taylor Swift!). I also love being involved in my church’s kids ministry because I love helping kids grow and I love their energy! I joined the YDI YAC this year because I am very passionate about making the world a better place for everybody in whatever way I can, especially for youth and mental health. I’ve seen others go through hard things during high school and I want to find a way to help them and educate others on how they can keep healthy regarding mental health. So, by being on the YAC I can do my best to make an impact on others and in my community.

Trinity Bell (she/they)

Hey! I am a grade eleven student residing in Montrose, a stone’s throw away from Trail, B.C.. I am currently fifteen years old, born in 2007, and am fast tracking my schooling to graduate this coming fall. I was raised on a small farm in northern Ontario, only recently relocating in favor of the B.C. mountains; since then, I have immersed myself in my lovely new home and the people within. I decided to join the YDI Youth Advisory Council because I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to embrace the diverse and burgeoning community that is the youth of B.C., while helping to create an environment where all voices, big and small, can be heard. My hobbies include swimming and kayaking in my region’s gorgeous natural lakes, reading, writing, going for hikes, exploring the mountainous terrain, and computer programming. I am a percussionist in the concert band at J. L. Crowe, while additionally embracing Canada’s bilingualism through the school’s immersive Dual Dogwood program. My biggest passion is finding a way of bringing divergent people together, so that through teamwork and cooperation, we can build a world in which we and our future generations feel comfortable. I believe it is essential that each and every perspective be considered equally, no matter whose eyes it is seen through.

Yekta Yousefi (she/her)

My name is Yekta Yousefi, and I prefer the pronouns she/her. I am a senior at Argyle Secondary (go Pipers!) and reside in the North Shore. My family immigrated to Canada in 2014 from Iran, and since we have gained two additional furry members, Snow and Makhmal. Majority of my time is spent taking Snow on hikes and cuddling with Makhmal, but when I can sneak away, I spend my time reading romance books, going on runs, and watching the Vampire Diaries. Although the activities I listed previously are considered more introverted, I just so happen to be an extremely extroverted person. I will NEVER give up a chance to go out. Similar to how I cannot miss the opportunity to go to a social gathering, I also could not miss the chance to apply for the Youth Advisory Council (YDI). Growing up, I was taught that mental health is not real and that all mental illnesses are made up in one’s mind. It was only when I began to struggle with mental health myself that I finally realized how significant mental health as well as how damaging a poor one can be. I never had a support system or proper access to help. I refuse to allow others to have the same reality; therefore, I applied to the YDI, where research, advocacy, and much more go towards youth mental health. I hope my time at the YDI benefits youth all across British Columbia.

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.

Dave MacKenzie

President, BC School Counsellors Association

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.

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.

Maddison Spenrath (she/her)

Core Project Director - Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), UBC

At the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), Maddison leads the project teams responsible for collecting population-level data in schools. She works closely with faculty and the HELP leadership team to expand and evolve the Child Development Monitoring System in support of improving the health and well-being of children through interdisciplinary research and knowledge mobilization. She has an MSc in Population and Public Health from the University of British Columbia. As a mom to two preschoolers, outside of work you can find her exploring the parks and playgrounds of East Vancouver.

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.

Penny Liao-Lussier

Provincial Director for Primary Care & Prevention with Child Health BC, Provincial Health Services Authority.

Penny Liao-Lussier is the Provincial Director for Primary Care & Prevention with Child Health BC, Provincial Health Services Authority. This role is accountable for providing overall leadership and coordination of efforts regarding future development of integrated primary and community care initiatives and health promotion and prevention initiatives, while advancing cultural safety, humility and diversity as they relate to children’s health in BC.Penny is a seasoned health care leader having worked in a variety of leadership roles ranging from acute care pediatrics and population and public health. Penny also acts as an Adjunct Professor for the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) School of Nursing. Penny is a life-long learner earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree, a Master of Nursing Degree with clinical teaching and leadership focus, and is a Certified Health Executive.Penny is passionate about the development and implementation of evidence informed practices that address social determinants of health, including equitable health services access and quality health care service delivery, especially for populations most vulnerable to socio-economic disadvantage, marginalization and inequitable health outcomes.

Krystal Dash (she/her)

Director, Mental Health and Substance Use; BC Ministry of Education and Child Care

Krystal Dash has been the acting Director of Mental Health and Substance Use at the Ministry of Education and Child Care since June 2022. Krystal is a visitor on Lekwugen Territory where she is grateful to live, work and play. Krystal previously BC Public Service experience includes supporting Inclusive Education. Inclusive Child Care, and Indigenous Education at the Ministry of Education and Child Care, and Mental Health and Substance Use at the Ministry of Health. She holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Public Administration at the University of Victoria. Krystal’s graduate thesis focused on addressing barriers in accessing treatment services for mothers with substance use disorder and used an intersectional approach to understand how gender, race/ethnicity, Indigeneity, and socioeconomic status influence the unique experiences of mothers seeking substance use treatment services.

Past Members

Lab Members

David Long, MD – Data Analyst
Jacquie Maloney, PhD – Lab Coordinator
Jillian Herring, MPH – Research Assistant
Rachel Correia, MPH – Research Assistant
Nada Hafez, MSc – Research Assistant

Julia Blake, MD – Psychiatry Resident
Christine Yanagawa, BA – Research Assistant
Jocelyn Lee, MPH, BSc – Research Assistant
Lauren Gorfinkel, MPH – Research Assistant
Michelle Wu – Practicum Student
Sonya Tsou – Practicum Student

Mari del Casal, MPH – Implementation Coordinator & MPH Thesis Student
Sayema Badar, MPH – Lab Coordinator
Shabnam Raufi, Directed Studies Student
Ren Lo, BES – Research Assistant/Project Coordinator
Sonia Heer, Honours Thesis Student
Zara Jeffries, Directed Studies Student

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

Andreas Kondos-Sheppard
Christie Liu
Hannah Bigiolli
Kennice Wong
Malia Mercado
Manuel Boada
Mara Cassidy Dirlau
Nayimah Lewis
Purnima Verma
Savannah Klynsoon

Annabelle Trokbak
Ayden Thane
Brandon Stellaard
Haneefah Abu
Joseph Tsai
Katy Mezei
Lauren Matties
Lauren Palmer
Qaleem Rawji
Rufina Aniyador
Sierra Lee

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