Advocating for Youth Mental Health in Education

Feb 27, 2023 | 
Black History Month | Equity | Featured

As an educator, my biggest priority is building relationships with youth and making sure they feel safe.

As a proud neurodivergent Afro-Latina woman, teacher, and mom, I represent mental health in the Black community. I am a survivor of childhood abuse and when I was young, I needed the consistent structure of school – it’s something that kept me whole. That’s part of why I fell in love with education as a field.

I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and I received my degree in Elementary Education at the University of Arizona. I’ve continued my education and am currently working on my PhD.

When I moved up to Portland – around 2012 – it was the first time I ever encountered such blatant face-to-face ignorance, racism, and microaggression.

I taught 3rd grade for a few years in Gresham-Barlow School District. My passion is education, and I chose to work in Title I schools where students of color have many more barriers than their white peers. Then the pandemic hit, and I couldn’t build relationships with my students and gain their trust the way I was normally able to in person. When I saw how the social, emotional, and relationship-building side of kids’ education got left behind, I felt like my freedom as a teacher was taken away.

Lines for Life lit my fire and gave me the opportunity to give my passion another chance as Assistant Director of Education and Outreach with YouthLine. My lived experiences as a neurodivergent Black woman have helped me become more self-aware and connect with different types of people.

My connection with youth is my biggest interest, and my foundation has been crucial in understanding how we can have influence in supporting and advocating for youth mental health in Portland and across the state of Oregon.

As a community, empowerment comes through showing up. We need to be there and be present to represent the community, because representation matters. Through my perspective as an educator and my lived experience as an Afro-Latina woman, I choose to show up in my field of expertise for our future.

Keep showing up for our youth in various roles. They’re watching us and yearning for inspiration.

  • Sonya, Assistant Director of Education and Outreach

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