Syretta Shealey

40 Under 40 Class of 2019

Chicago, Illinois

Healthy CPS Specialist

Chicago Public Schools, Office of Student Health and Wellness
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Public health is embedded in everything! I would like to continue my work with in the public health and youth advocacy sectors. I would like to build upon the knowledge and experience that I have gained in order to become more qualified to be involved with preventative methods, such as empowering communities to promote health and reduce inequalities and creating public and private partnerships to improve laws that support community health initiatives.

BOLD SOLUTION: Through the implementation of Healthy CPS, a district-wide initiative, Syretta provides technical assistance to administrators, educators, and strategic partners in order to ensure that students have a safe and healthy learning environment. This is done by offering daily physical activity, nutritious foods, school-based health services, health education, and other supports for students with chronic conditions. With her strategic guidance, she leads a cohort of 300 schools, provides grant oversight for 170 schools, and vets curriculum resources for the district.

Five Questions for Syretta

In her work with students in Chicago, Syretta tries to focus on the “who” and “why” of her work — not just the “what” and “how.”

1. Who or what inspired you to enter the field of public health?

First, my passion for helping others. Second, realizing my gift as a connector. I have always been the friend who everyone comes to for advice, to be a voice of reason, or the referral for establishing healthier life habits.

2. What are the greatest challenges you face in your public health work or area of focus?

Reminding others to take a step back from the day-to-day tactical details and focus on the “who” and the “why”– not just the “what” and “how.” The question should always be “are we making actionable steps that are manageable, realistic, and impactful for our ‘customer’?”

3. What would success in public health look like to you?

Success in public health in the education sector would look like caring adults creating a supportive environment where youth can embrace the power of a collective voice. Empowering our youth to become advocates and establish their self-efficacy in order to create a sustainable balance. I envision that those in powerful positions will look at the broad social and cultural aspects that education directly affects, and employ the construct of reciprocal determinism.

4. What’s a story or experience that keeps you going, even when you’re feeling challenged?

Advice from my maternal grandparents: “If you do the right thing, the right thing will always turn out for you!”

5. Describe yourself in three words.

Connector. Altruistic. Charismatic.