Johnny Reed ’13, who graduated from Colorado College with a degree in French & Francophone Studies, has been named a Roddenberry Fellow for his work with ProjectHEAL Inc.
Reed, a Chicago native, is the founder and president of ProjectHEAL Inc., which he launched in 2017 in response to the need for school staff, students, and families to discuss how trauma impacts student learning and teacher well-being, and to collectively identify healthy, culturally relevant coping mechanisms necessary to navigate and transcend the mental scarring that trauma can inflict.
In three years, Reed established 15 partnerships with universities, community-based organizations, and public and charter schools in 10 states, reached 780 education leaders through trauma-informed professional development, impacted more than 39,000 students, and launched the Meditation & Calming Center for Lee Antonello Elementary School students in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prior to teaching at Butler College Prep, Reed was with Teach for America, teaching in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Reed became interested in trauma-informed education while serving as an 11th-grade African American literature teacher through Teach for America at Butler College Prep, a high school within the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago. Stress and ongoing trauma caused by systemic racism and educational inequities impacted Reed’s students, who he calls his “brilliant and extremely resilient 11th-grade students and 9th-grade advisees.”
The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University confirms that toxic stress alongside experiencing ongoing trauma impacts a student’s ability to learn, maintain healthy relationships, and be the best version of themselves, says Reed.
Now Reed is committed to a robust vision: increasing the number of trauma-informed school leaders — educators and all school staff — nationwide who are well positioned to decrease disproportionate discipline infractions for Black and Latino students, reduce the number of K-12 suicides and attempts, and support all students as they navigate stress and trauma in pursuit of being the best version of themselves — in the classroom and beyond.
“I see ProjectHEAL’s mission as an ongoing Block Plan learning experience,” says Reed. “The vision is to increase the number of trauma-informed leaders nationwide. That being said, each partnership established is like a new block, an innovative opportunity to increase the number of trauma-informed leaders within each school, organization or community. CC prepared me for this, my professors and certainly my mentors: Acting Co-President Mike Edmonds, Dean Rochelle Dickey, Manya Whittaker (Education), and former Director of Admission Carlos Jimenez.”
Launched in 2016, the Roddenberry Fellowship is a $1 million investment in the innovators, community leaders, and changemakers leading the efforts for a more just and equitable country. As a Roddenberry Fellow, Reed is the recipient of $50,000 that allows him to take the existing initiative to the next level and amplify its impact.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, Reed is committed to expanding ProjectHEAL’s impact, using technology and live-streaming to promote mental wellness and trauma-informed education. As a result of the pandemic and the abrupt halt of most air travel, Reed has partnered with Temple Media of Los Angeles — founded by CC alumni Jaime Roman ’13 and Evan Ryan ’13 — and LJ Cunningham of Las Vegas, Nevada, to launch ProjectHEAL’s trauma-informed education live-stream channel. This collaboration piloted three livestream sessions, averaging 388 viewers per episode, during the summer quarantine months and has begun hosting trauma-informed conversations and professional learning experiences to connect with school staff, students, and families in their homes.