A head shot of 2019 Cheng Fellow Laura Jenny

Laura Jenny

2019 Cheng Fellow

Laura Jenny graduated from Harvard College in 2020 with a concentration in Integrative Biology and a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. Born and raised in Leominster, MA she witnessed the struggles of many youths in Central Massachusetts, which prompted her to found You(th) Matter. You(th) Matter is a youth-led advisory committee that meets to discuss issues such as police brutality, immigration, and child-family services. Members work with leaders of the committee to provide recommendations for policy initiatives, and police training reforms carried out by Strategies for Youth. You(th) Matter also works to gather and publish youth stories in print, visual, and audio mediums. In 2018 Laura 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 of Massachusetts.

At Harvard College, Laura served as a Case Manager for the youth homeless shelter Y2Y, the director of the community service board of Eleganza, a Peer Advising Fellow, and as a violinist and board member of the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Laura also worked 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.

As a Cheng Fellow, Laura researched and documented the types of trauma experienced by youth with the goal of raising awareness and identifying opportunities for additional support amongst youth-facing agencies and advocates. Laura worked 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 collaborated 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 that teaches youth about trauma, its causes, effects, and coping mechanisms to safely deal with triggering situations.