Laura Jenny is a junior at Harvard College concentrating in Integrative Biology, with a secondary focus in Global Health and Health Policy. Born and raised in Leominster, MA she witnessed first-hand the struggles of many underserved youths in central Massachusetts, which prompted her to co-found PLAY. PLAY teaches youth how to safely interact with police and aims to reduce tensions between youth and police in Central Massachusetts and across the country. PLAY partnered with various programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club of America and Strategies for Youth, to design curriculum and present a youth training program. Laura has served as a representative for youth at the Police Youth Engagement Conference and has discussed the plight of underserved youth in her community with educational and community leaders and the office of the Governor to influence public policy. As a Cheng Fellow, Laura will research and document the types of trauma experienced by youth in her community with the goal of raising awareness and identifying opportunities for additional support amongst youth-facing agencies and advocates. Laura is currently working to provide tools for youth that can give them the agency to address and overcome the effects of trauma, in addition to positively influencing public policies dealing with juvenile justice and child welfare. She is collaborating with Attorney Lisa Thurau (CEO of Strategies for Youth) and Donata Martin (CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fitchburg, Leominster, and Gardner) to pilot a curriculum which teaches youth about trauma, its causes, effects, and coping mechanisms to safely deal with triggering situations.
At Harvard College, Laura has served as a Case Manager for the youth homeless shelter Y2Y, on the community service board of Eleganza and as a violinist and board member of the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Laura also works in the Naomi Pierce Lab under Dr. Lori Shapiro investigating plant diseases, insects and their microbiomes to combat crop failure, economic devastation, and food shortage.
After graduation from Harvard College, Laura hopes to study the area of childhood trauma through a research program while also continuing her work with the Cheng Fellowship. In the future, she hopes to continue to work to help children and youth, especially those from adverse backgrounds.