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.
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 is currently an evaluation specialist consultant with Child Health BC (PHSA), a research associate with the Human Early Partnership (HELP) at UBC, and implementation coordinator with the CHART Lab at SFU.
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 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.
Brooke recently graduated with a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She also has a Bachelor of Health Sciences from Western University. Her interests are focused in areas of knowledge translation, health promotion, and population-level health interventions. She supports knowledge translation for the YDI, hoping to bridge knowledge-to-action gaps to promote youth well-being and amplify the youth voice of the YDI.
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.
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 in understanding– and ultimately improving– systems affecting child and youth well-being in North America.
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!
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!
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. 🙂
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 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.
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” This is a quote by the great Winston Churchill, that I not only believe in deeply but also believe in sharing. Throughout our lifetime we will be given the opportunity of many challenges. This quote inspires and reminds me that these challenges are not there to hold us back, but to give us the chance to grow and change. I am a 17-year-old, Queer, grade 12 student of Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I lead with passion and enthusiasm in my school community. As a member of Student Counsel, and as a senior player on our Volleyball team; I am consistently contributing to the energy of our school culture. Outside of school, I love to casually play guitar, read, and create art. I love capturing moments through photography and love creating them on small adventures with my Family and Friends too. I joined the Youth Advisory Counsel to contribute to a better future for our generation and those to come. I believe in the strength of community because I have felt the power of support when it was most needed. Youth counselling pivoted my life to look toward a brighter future. Though this may only be one outlet for the youth of today, it is one that I truly believe in. Finally, in the words of an amazing mentor: don’t have a good day, have a great one!
I am a 17 year old senior in Abbotsford Senior Secondary School. I am an international 7’s player. I spend my free time building robots, rockets and playing guitar on mountain tops 🙂 I hope to study computer engineering in university next fall, and one day open my own business as an electronic engineer.
I am currently a grade 12 student attending WJ Mouat Secondary school. I am a part of the French program at Mouat and also up on the senior student leadership team. I also enjoy volunteering with different organizations my three times the ones that I primarily volunteer with our hospice or the city of Abbotsford. I am also currently a part of our school districts career program. In my free time I enjoy reading and catching up with my family and friends. I decided to join the YDI advisory council because I saw it as an opportunity to give back to my school society, and to help students and make an environment that is the best not only for students but for others as well.
My name is Andreas Kondos-Sheppard – I’m a grade 12 student from Revelstoke, a small town on the Columbia river within the Kootenay-Columbia region of BC. I have always been drawn towards different volunteer opportunities and chances to help others, so I was thrilled to see such a terrific position was looking for applicants. As a person with high functioning ASD, mental health and well-being are of great importance to me, so the YDI was especially appealing. Being from a rural location, I have also grown up in an environment very exposed to nature, as have the other youth in my community. Unfortunately, the effects of climate change (wildfires, glacial decline, etc.) are much more noticeable to both me and other individuals as a result of our location, and this has become a high source of stress among local youth. As a result, I am very interested in discovering the attitudes of youth, both locally and provincially, towards climate change. Aside from volunteering at local ventures, some of my hobbies include botany, exploring the local ecosystems and plant-life, reading, and learning about the natural world. I look forward to providing a voice for neurodivergent individuals and rural communities in BC, and I hope that I can use this position to improve the mental health and well-being of adolescents in such a critical point in their lives.
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.
Hi! My name is Hannah Bigiolli and I am a grade 11 student in the Lower Mainland. I am an avid volleyball player, waitress, and artist:) My past times include anything athletic like the gym or competitive sports, taking art classes, learning the guitar, and eating lots (and lots) of yummy food. I am very excited to be a part of the YDI Youth Advisory Council as I am very interested in an analysis of the current mental health of my generation as a whole, and the ties social media has to the generational gap I observe fairly often. I also hope to become a French Immersion Teacher, so learning what these surveys can help explain and teach us about our youth is of great importance to me. I want to be the type of teacher that has a positive impact on every student I get to teach, and want to help create well-rounded and kind future members of my community. I believe teachers and educators play such a huge role in so many different aspects of children’s lives, and so I feel the more I understand about our youth, our education systems, and what needs to be improved, the better. I can’t wait to see what skills I can learn and hone in on through the YDI Youth Advisory Council, and I am very excited to work on something with so much importance in my education!
My name is Kayra Ozdemir, I am a 16-year-old Grade 11 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.
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.
Hi! My name is Annie Wu and I am currently a grade 11 student in the Burnaby region. I joined the YDI to get involved and contribute to the research on youth mental well-being. When I discovered YDI and its goal to find the right support for young people, I knew that this is something I am interested in. Mental health plays a huge factor in our life. 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. That is why 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, playing soccer, and tinkering with technology. I also enjoy meeting new people and creating a difference in my community. Currently, I am part of my school’s student government and I am involved in many clubs, regional and school-wide. I am also a District Ambassador for the Youth Substance Use Advisory Committee. This year, I hope to create many events in bringing 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!
Hi there! My name is Mara Dirlau and I am from a small town called Pitt Meadows. I am in grade 11 and I attend the only high school in the town; Pitt Meadows Secondary School (Where I am also enrolled in French Immersion). I am a volleyball athlete, fashion enthusiast, guitar player, feminism believer, math nerd, music lover, smiles-all-the-time kind of girl. There’s so much that makes up who I am, but those are only some of the things that really make me, me. I am still figuring out exactly who I am, and more importantly, what I am going to do with my life, but I am proud of who and what I have grown to become, and I know I am on the right track. Sometimes, I tend to bite off more than I can chew, as I am involved in many school activities, but I am devoted to making it a better environment for my fellow students. I know I have the power to make a difference and help the people around me, which is why I decided to join the YDI council. I believe I can make an impact with my input, and I want to represent the voice of not only the people of my high school, but for all of the youth across B.C.
My name is Lisa Lei and I’m currently a grade 11 student at Moscrop Secondary in Burnaby, BC. I joined the YDI because I’ve had many friends and family members fall victim to mental illness as well as my own experiences. I’d like to support and spread awareness about the current issues that plague youth in our communities today. My personal interests include playing sports like volleyball, art, and social events with public speaking, debates and more. I hope to work with others passionate about youth mental health and develop programs and events that will have a positive impact on youth in the future.
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.
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.
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 foundrybc.ca; 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.
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.
2022Mari del Casal, MPH – Implementation Coordinator & MPH Thesis StudentSayema Badar, MPH – Lab CoordinatorShabnam Raufi, Directed Studies StudentRen Lo, BES – Research Assistant/Project CoordinatorSonia Heer, Honours Thesis StudentZara Jeffries, Directed Studies Student
2021Qudrat Aujla – Directed Studies StudentSarah Pendreigh, BA (Hons.) – Practicum StudentAmilya Ladak, BSc (Hons.) – Research AssistantGaelen Snell, MSc – Research Project CoordinatorLadan Fathi, MSc – Research Assistant
2020Caralyn Vossen, BSc – Directed Studies Student
2018Michelle Pang, MPH – Practicum Student
2017Sean Yang, BA (Hons.) – Research Assistant & Honours Student
2022Annabelle TrokbakAyden ThaneBrandon StellaardHaneefah AbuJoseph TsaiKaty MezeiLauren MattiesLauren PalmerQaleem RawjiRufina AniyadorSierra Lee
2021Aadi KaurAlyssa WellarCaila TymchukCharmaine LeeJace LamoreuxJacob CampbellLogan IsfeldMaya BenentesoStephanie Quon