Summer Newsletter: Building Resiliency Among Baltimore Youth
Building Resiliency Among Baltimore Youth
Shante Johnson knows when a young person is acting out, there's usually an untold story behind their behavior. Experiencing adversity during childhood, such as poverty, having a parent in prison, homelessness, neglect, witnessing violence or simply never seeing one's parents because they work four jobs to keep food on the table, can have a huge impact on a child's development. Many of the youth in Baltimore feel like society has told them that they won't make it past 25. Shante knows that despite the adversity they have experienced, these young people can reach their goals.
Shante knows this because she's lived it. She had a stressful childhood, moving back and forth between Park Heights and Sandtown. She became a parent at a young age and worked tirelessly to support her family while putting herself through college. Now she is dedicated to supporting young people and encouraging them to follow their dreams.
Today, Shante works for UTURNS (Trauma, Unity, Recovery, Navigation and Safety), a program that offers support to Baltimore youth who have been exposed to violence, chronic stress or trauma. UTURNS engages youth through street outreach and supports them in reaching their goals through peer support, SELF Chat (a community conversation to foster connection and safety), yoga, tai chi, meditation and other holistic practices. Street outreach is vital to connect with youth who have been exposed to trauma and assess what they need to build a positive future
UTURNS implements a trauma-responsive approach, with the goal of creating a safe space where young people can be supported to fulfill their positive potential. Many youth have developed a tough shell but underneath their behavior is a need to be heard, understood and loved. Shante wants youth to know that trauma and adversity impacts them, but their history is not their destiny.
Shante Johnson with UTURNS two outreach workers, Kelvin Parker and Akai Alston, who have had over 3,362 interactions with individuals in the community since the program was launched in February.
UTURNS is a community-based partnership between BHSB, Kids Safe Zone, Safe Streets, Catholic Charities and the Baltimore City Health Department. For more information about this program, please contact, Shante Johnson, U-Turns Program Coordinator at Shante.Johnson@bhsbaltimore.org or Emily Heinlein, Director of Public Health Strategic Initiatives, Emily.Heinlein@bhsbaltimore.org.
Exposure to trauma and chronic stress at a young age has a huge impact on a child's brain and can put them at significantly higher risk of developing behavioral health challenges and engaging in high risk behavior later in life. However, recent studies have shown that quality developmental relationships with adults and peers increase the likelihood of academic success, social stability and resilience. That is why programs like UTURNS that cultivate relationships with youth who have experienced trauma can be so impactful.
"Whether the burdens come from the hardships of poverty, the challenges of parental substance abuse or serious mental illness or a combination of factors, the single most common finding is that children who end up doing well have had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver or other adult." the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.