Author: 
Natalie Kulick, Associate, Communications and Meetings

Youth Spotlight: Jabeen Sheikh

Jabeen Sheikh, member of the Youth Leadership Council for Community in Crisis (CIC) and CADCA’s National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC), will graduate from Ridge High School this June, and in 2023 will transfer to Cornell University on the pre-med track.

Jabeen joined CIC, a coalition based in Burnsville, New Jersey, during her sophomore year of high school. “I originally joined because I needed volunteer hours and, coincidentally, that was around the time that they formed their Youth Leadership Council. I became one of the first to join, along with a few other students from other high schools in the area, and I ended up loving everything that we did and have been doing!”

“I think one of my favorite initiatives was during my junior year of high school, in the height of the pandemic. We created a campaign called ‘Lead with Love’ where we made little gift bags that included mental health resources and positive quotes that were handed out to friends, sports teams at school and family members. The point was to decrease feelings of loneliness during that collectively difficult time and have people continue to pass the bags along. We tracked our impact using QR codes, so every time someone new would scan the code in the bag, we could count how many people we reached.”

“Ultimately, we ended up presenting ‘Lead with Love’ to SAMHSA, and they really liked it. They implementedthe campaign in other schools and close to 400 bags were distributed across New Jersey, so we were proud of that impact.”

“Now we are working on a social media campaign called ‘One Clear Path’, which is focused on giving youth examples of alternatives to using substances. We’ve made videos on Instagram and TikTok where I show what my friends and I do for fun instead of drinking on a Friday night, and, so far, we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

“Being a part of this coalition has been a great way to get involved with my community and do something impactful. I love my adult leaders and the other youth that are a part of it. It's not just adults telling us to not do drugs or not drink - it’s a fun time, and we are able to have open conversations. I've learned so much about different perspectives on substance use and misuse prevention.”

After Jabeen’s adult leaders learned about the NYAC, they strongly encouraged her to apply to further strengthen her leadership skills and meet like-minded youth across the country. “Joining the NYAC has been a really wonderful opportunity to meet other high schoolers from different areas and backgrounds, but all with a similar goal. It’s currently just lifting off the ground now, but I’m really looking forward to attending Mid-Year this July to meet the other members in-person and learn more about prevention.”

During Jabeen’s freshman year of college, she plans to stay connected with her coalition and support the next generation of underclassmen in CIC. Additionally, she will continue to work with the NYAC as a voice for the youth. “I think my involvement in prevention really got me interested in public health and overall, how to better the health of communities. I always knew I wanted to study medicine but working in prevention has been an inspiration due to the impact you can make on other people's lives. I look forward to seeing what the next steps of this journey will bring.”