Nan Astone, a former Johns Hopkins School of Public Health professor and Center for Adolescent Health researcher, passed away June 15. Nan was dedicated to improving the lives of young people in Baltimore and the world. She was a cherished mentor, teacher, colleague, wife, mother, friend, Girl Scout leader and Sunday school teacher.
Nan was passionate about designing programs to benefit adolescents experiencing homelessness and housing instability. “Some of the solutions that are proposed to serve homeless people who are older might not fit. Homeless young people are quite invisible,” she explained in avideo interview. Through surveys, Nan sought to learn more about the day-to-day experiences of youth experiencing homelessness so interventions could be developed to better suit their actual needs.
Nan earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1988. Following a post-doctoral fellowship at University of Wisconsin, she joined the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School. Nan was a PFRH faculty member for 24 years. She later worked at The Urban Institute’s Center for Labor, Human Services and Population as a Senior Fellow.
As a researcher, Nan’s skills were unique in that she designed both surveys of small community based groups and large nationally representative samples.
Nan published over 75 manuscripts in a variety of journals on a range of subjects including: the transition to adulthood, school dropout, and family demography. An expert in demographic and statistical methods used for longitudinal data analysis, Nan received the W.T. Grant Faculty Scholars Award in 1991. For several years, Nan was the deputy editor of the Population Association of America’s official journal,Demography.
“I do what I do so that all young people make the transition to adulthood as full of hope and confidence in the future as I did,” she said.
Nan is survived by her husband, Nick Burbank; her children, Daniel and Katie Burbank; and her father, Buck Astone. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made toYouth Empowered SocietyandGirl Scouts of America.
At the CAH, I’ve learned about common adolescent health issues. I reviewed data from evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs like It’s Your Game and Making Proud Choices that are taught by health educators in Baltimore City Schools. I was also introduced to a national study called the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (commonly known as the YRBS), which is a survey that is administered every other year to students across the country. Students are asked questions about safety while driving, alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual health.
Upper School students at Garrison Forest learn health information in Decision Making I and II, but the instructors do not use It’s Your Game or Making Proud Choices curricula and we do not complete the YRBS surveys. So, I thought it would be interesting to find out what students at my school, Baltimore City students, and Maryland students have in common and ways we might be different.
I worked with my WISE mentors to develop an online survey for my classmates. The YRBS has many questions, but I only included 20 questions in the survey which I will send to my classmates. All of the questions are similar to the questions students respond to in the YRBS.
I will soon send the survey to students at my school. That way, I will be able to compare responses in relation to three key health domains: safety, alcohol and drug use, and sexual health.
I predict that there will more similarities that one would think. If there are differences, I would like to explore why. The survey will be administered and collected by the end of May and I will share the results.
Ellie Intern, Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health Student, Garrison Forest School
The student survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting have ignited a nationwide conversation about gun reform in this country. They’ve appeared on television news programs, spoken at rallies, debated National Rifle Association representatives, and met with legislators—all in two months since 17 students and staff were killed at their high school. They demand widespread reform to U.S. gun policy and school safety.
At a Feb. 17 Rally to Support Firearm Safety Legislation, Douglas High School senior Emma Gonzalez said, “The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us. And us kids seem to be the only ones who notice. We call B.S. They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call B.S.”
Ms. Gonzalez now has over one million followers on Twitter.
While the recent activism by students seems like a watershed moment, throughout history youth and adolescents have been at the forefront of social and political change. In 1899,3,000 New York City newsboysstriked to fight changes made by publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst—and they won.
With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union,Mary Beth Tinker, her brother John, and Chris Eckhardt sued the Des Moines Independent Community School District after they were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the students in 1969.Justice Abe Fortaswrote in the majority decision that students and teachers do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate."
Their legacy continues today withBlack Lives Matter and their work organizing and speaking out against racial violence and intolerance
The Stoneman Douglas students have acknowledged the different ways gun violence is portrayed in the media. "There is a lot of racial disparity in the way that this is covered. If this happened in a place of a lower socioeconomic status or a place like a black community, no matter how well those people spoke, I don't think the media would cover it the same," said David Hogg, a Douglas senior, in aTwitter livestream. "We have to use our white privilege now to make sure that all of the voices—all of the people that have died as a result of this and haven't been covered the same can now be heard. It's sad, but it's true.”
Students from North Lawndale College Prep High School in Chicago reached out to the MSD students hoping to discuss their shared vision: reducing gun violence. Shortly after, a group of Douglas students invited the Chicago teens to Florida and they had a powerful conversation about white privilege “It was like the room just went silent,” saidGerald Smith, an advisor of the Chicago students. “I got choked up. When that came to light, there were tears. That was kind of an olive branch moment. That was just profound,” he added, in a Time Magazine article.
Young people in Baltimore City deal with community violence akin to the Chicago students. In the past year, seven Excel Academy students have been killed due to gun violence. Since the Parkland shooting, The Baltimore Sun crime reporter Kevin Rector hasspoken withcurrent Excel Academy students. The Excel students said they are vigilant about their surroundings and concerned for their safety. The Excel Academy students feel safe at their West Baltimore school and noted everyone must go through a metal detector to enter the building.
It’s out in the community where they worry. “I would like to see more kids outside and playing and doing children things instead of locked up in a house because their family is scared for them to go outside,” said Excel senior Raydonna Hawkins.
On March 14, one month since the Parkland shooting,students in the Baltimore areaand nationwide, participated in walk-outs and assemblies centered on school violence and gun control. Dorrie Gaeng, a senior at Dulaney High School in Towson, said to The Baltimore Sun, “People think because we are adolescents, our voices don’t matter. We wanted to come out here today and show you that we’re not going to accept that.”
Students at Friends School organized astudent marchto Baltimore City Hall on March 6 and were joined by peers from other private and public schools including Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School, Roland Park Country School, and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. While speaking to the students outside City Hall, Mayor Catherine Pugh committed to send Baltimore youth to Washington, D.C for the upcoming March For Our Lives. With the help ofprivate donations, the city coordinated 60 buses, T-shirts and lunches for Baltimore young people and their families to attend the demonstration.
On March 24, an estimated800,000people descended on Pennsylvania Avenue for the March For Our Lives, which was organized by Stoneman Douglas students. There were over 800 satellite demonstrations worldwide, including here in Baltimore.
Nadiera Young spoke at Baltimore’s March For Our Lives about her experience as a sixth grade language arts teacher at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School. Young recalled discussing Freddie Gray’s death and police brutality with her students. Two days after Freddie Gray’s death, one of Young’s students asked her: “Why do police keep killing us?” She remembered discussing police brutality and attending Black Lives Matter protests with her students throughout the school year.
“Today, when I say never again, I speak for the 17 students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who did not live to see their high school graduation. I speak for my students whose family members have been killed at the hands of others here in Baltimore. I speak for the countless number of Black and Brown people killed at the hands of the police with no justice for their lives. I speak for my fourteen year old self who will never see her brother again. I speak for my students now and in the future in hopes you are not here protesting again next year,” Young said.
The impassioned response of MSD students has ignited a national conversation and put pressure on several corporations with ties to the NRA. Some states, such asVermontandFloridahave tightened gun control laws. While appearing on CNN,Douglas High School history teacherDiane Wolk-Rogerssaid, “Our kids have started a revolution. I’m proud and I’m inspired to be a part of #NeverAgain.”
Wide Angle Youth Media produced this film for the Bloomberg American Health Initiative's Making Connections Matter Conference. Some of the young people featured are members of the Youth Leadership and Advocacy Network.
“I ran down to the guidance counselor's office and I applied. I received a nomination to be one of the U.S. Congressional pages for the U.S. House of Representatives to represent the state of Maryland. That was at [age] 16 and it changed my life. I no longer wanted to be an athlete,” he explained.
The page program exposes young people to the legislative process as they serve as messengers and prepare the congressional chambers for session.
The summer Rashad spent working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. exposed him to new opportunities and experiences. “I knew that politics and advocacy work could change the trajectory of my life, my community, and my family,” Staton said. “I went from dribbling a basketball to using my brain and analytical skills to change my space and my environment,” he added.
Staton’s experience as a page introduced him to the impact one can make as a public servant. He decided to major in political science and attended Morgan State University--a stepping stone to his dreams. While in college, Staton held executive positions in the Student Government Association andNational Pan-Hellenic Council. Leading large student groups gave him practical experience in community organizing while learning political theory in class.
Staton also served as vice chair for theBaltimore City Youth Commission, which at the time was a mix of young people ages 13-24 representing city council districts. “We had to be very keen and receptive to perspectives on our own team,” he said, “I had to still be able to understand the needs and the wants of a middle schooler.”
Staton said one highlight of his time as a commissioner was when he led and organized family dinners with resource fairs for residents of Perkins Homes, an East Baltimore public housing community, called BeMore Dinners, with the support of his friends and fellow commissioners.
Staton began collaborating with the Center for Adolescent Health as a youth commissioner. The Youth Commission partners with CAH’sYouth Leadership and Advocacy Network(YLAN) toconnect youth leaders across the city and ensure youth are represented in policy decisions that directly impact their well-being and healthy transition to adulthood.
“It allows young people to learn early to not fall victim to working in silos, but to work collaboratively. It's a shared space of young people learning what other young people are doing,”Staton said.
Programs and initiatives created with youth aremore effectivethan ones simply made for youth.
He’s continued to chair YLAN along with Katrina Brooks, CAH’s community relations director. “Rashad is remarkable. His personality and his work ethic helps people be comfortable around him,” Brooks said.
Staton formerly worked as a program assistant forFamily League of Baltimoreand recently started a new job--youth engagement specialist for Baltimore City Public Schools. In this position, his work focuses on promoting the district’sBlueprint Initiative, which is centered on literacy, student wholeness, and leadership.
He works on multiple projects at the City Schools Family and Community Engagement Office and plans programming focused on empowering youth to raise their voice and make positive change. In February, Staton coordinated a youth information session on the school budgeting process with small group activities and discussions. “I wake up every day trying to figure out how to engage and promote youth voice and I love it,” he said.
Staton’s dedication impresses Brooks, “He’s such a great role model for young people. It’s so good to work with someone who really means what they say.”