New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

The Global Early Adolescent Study is partnering with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES), a national non-profit health organization domiciled in New Orleans. IWES is dedicated to improving the mental, physical and spiritual health and quality of life for women, their families and communities of color, particularly among marginalized populations, using community-engaged research, health education programs, training, advocacy and partnerships.  In 1993, IWES was incorporated as a 501[c] (3), community-centered public health organization, and has remained deeply committed to promoting comprehensive health and quality of life through social change, public policy and collaboration. Over the years, the organization has developed culturally proficient, multidisciplinary and holistic public health programs, activities, and research models around the following: adolescent sexual health, community well-being and resilience, and community mental health. In 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a division of post-disaster emotional resiliency, the Collective for Healthy Communities (CHC), was developed to address the human recovery needs of communities of color, particularly among women and children, in New Orleans. CHC addresses the context within which vulnerable youth live, as defined by their dependent relationships with family and caretakers, their community and the larger society and institutions; all of which cumulatively affect their individual actions and behaviors. For the past 8 years, IWES has collected data on the levels of traumatic stress disorders in over 4000 youth ages 11-16 years old; the data continue to show an elevation of traumatic stress symptoms 2-3 times the national rates. Considering the relationships between healthy decision-making, risk behaviors and trauma, all of IWES’ adolescent sexual health programs are trauma-responsive and prescriptive.

IWES and GEAS are partnering on a youth program called Catapult. Catapult includes both the administration of the GEAS instruments and an evaluation of Creating a Future Together (CrAFT), a trauma-informed, gender-transformative comprehensive sex education intervention. This study is evaluating the impact of CrAFT as compared to a standardized evidence-based sex education program among adolescents aged 11-14 in middle schools in New Orleans.


The CrAFT curriculum is rooted in a human rights framework, and integrates trauma-informed and gender-transformative approaches. The integration of these three core elements fosters a deeper personalization of content and is intended to improve overall student engagement with the material. This allows participants to consider their lived experience within the broader societal context in which they live and grow. The underlying theory of this intervention posits that when young people have the tools and language to understand and interrogate the gender messages they receive in their daily lives, they will be empowered to make healthier decisions about their bodies and their individuality.


By coupling CrAFT with the GEAS study, we hope to develop an understanding of the factors in early adolescence that predispose young people to subsequent sexual health risk. We hope that the findings from this study will help inform best practices in adolescent sexual health programming in New Orleans and around the world.

For more information about Catapult and to stay updated with highlights from youth programming follow our Instagram

Dr. Denese Shervington: Principal Investigator


Dr. Shervington has an intersectional career in public health and academic psychiatry. She is the President and CEO of The Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies (IWES), a community-based translational public health institute in New Orleans. At IWES, she directs a community-based post-disaster mental health and emotional resiliency recovery program, and a federally funded trauma-informed Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Program. Dr. Shervington is also a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tulane University. Her focus at Tulane is residency education and training. Dr. Shervington is a graduate of New York University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco and is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Shervington received a Masters of Public Health in Population Studies and Family Planning from Tulane University School of Public Health. In 2018, she received the Award for Excellence in Service and Advocacy from the American Psychiatric Association. In 2012, she received the Jeanne Spurlock Minority award from the American Psychiatric Association. Dr. Shervington is a member of the American College of Psychiatrists. She has authored several papers in peer-reviewed journals addressing health disparities, the social determinants of health and resilience in underserved communities.

Lisa Richardson: Co-Principal Investigator


Lisa Richardson is the Chief Impact Officer at the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies. Prior to this, she served as the National Director of Southern Access Project for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a consultant, program director, and evaluator for a variety of organizations including Emory University, the Carter Presidential Center, and the New Orleans-based education program, Students at the Center. Lisa was a Visiting Professor at Florida State University in the Urban and Regional Planning department, and an Assistant Professor at California State University Northridge in the Urban Studies and Pan-African Studies Departments. She received her Ph.D. in 2002 at the University of New Orleans as a Board of Regents Fellow, and her Master of Science in 1996 from Georgia State University. Her interests include community development, analyzing social determinants of health, sexual health education and advocacy (particularly for women of color and youth), and participatory action research. After leaving New Orleans for academia, Lisa returned to her adopted home in 2005 to serve as the Interim Executive Director of IWES in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Richardson is a Fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Leaders program.

Sheetal Kandola: Research Coordinator

Sheetal Kondola.jpg

Sheetal joined GEAS in the Summer of 2018. Although she is American by birth and Punjabi by blood, she considers herself a citizen of the world and has moved to New Orleans after working in several different capacities. She graduated with her Bachelor’s from Emory University. After gaining experience in the healthcare side of corporate America, she went on to complete her MSc in Global Mental Health from King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Upon graduation in 2015, she began working for Sangath, a NGO based in India as the Manager of the Addictions Research Group. Seeking clinical experience, she got offered a position in a rehab in Thailand. Currently, she is enrolled in an International diploma in Mental Health, Human Rights and Law with the World Health Organization. Sheetal’s research interests are child and adolescent mental health, trauma, sex education and scaling up mental healthcare in communities.

Jen Latimer: Research Coordinator


Jen holds a BS in Biomedical Sciences from Santa Clara University (‘09) and an MPH from Tulane University in Maternal and Child Health and Health Education and Communications (‘12). A native Texan, she moved to New Orleans in 2009 with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working with people living with HIV/AIDS towards holistic wellness. Her professional experience spans realms of reproductive health, adolescent development, and equity work across education and wellness spaces. Prior to joining IWES, she worked as a full-time public health practitioner inside an alternative high school, applying a holistic lens to student wellness through

Kala Rachal- Research Coordinator

Kala Rachal.jpg

Kala Rachal is a Research Coordinator at the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies. She obtained her MPH in International Health and Development with a certificate in Disaster Management from Tulane University and BS in Community Health from Dillard University. Prior to her educational pursuit, Kala served as a patient administrator/medical evacuation coordinator in South Korea and Afghanistan in the United States Army. She has worked in rural areas of Peru, Kenya, and South Korea counseling and testing for Malaria and HIV, teaching community-based health and wellness programs and conducting outreach and assisting with relief effort. Aside from her current position she works with other community organizations in New Orleans focusing on advocating for marginalized communities, working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, and empowering the youth through mentorship and health education.