Home News Center YJLI Fellow Cheyenne Blackburn Advocates for Data Accountability

YJLI Fellow Cheyenne Blackburn Advocates for Data Accountability

January 30, 2018

Cheyenne Blackburn is a 2017-18 fellow in NJJN's Youth Justice Leadership Institute (YJLI), a year-long program that aims to create a more effective youth justice reform movement by supporting well-prepared advocates who reflect the communities most affected by the juvenile justice system.

Cheyenne Blackburn is currently an Outreach Paralegal in the Children’s Rights Practice Group of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), where she passionately advocates on behalf of youth and families in Louisiana schools, facilities, and communities. Before joining SPLC, Cheyenne volunteered as an intake assistant with Loyola University’s Workplace Justice Project and worked as a student assistant with the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, where she worked diligently on behalf of indigent clients on civil and criminal issues. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Loyola University of New Orleans.

About Cheyenne’s advocacy project

Cheyenne's advocacy project for the Institute seeks to raise awareness about school-based arrests and data accountability. Information on school-based arrests is hard to come by, so she is embarking on a data collection process involving schools and local law enforcement agencies. Cheyenne says she will supplement the hard data with qualitative research from families and eventually compile the information into a written report.

“Data is key to holding school districts accountable and ensuring youth are not criminalized for developmentally appropriate behavior,” Cheyenne states.

She believes the increased awareness will inform future policy changes, allowing for more child-friendly schools and communities.

What got Cheyenne into youth justice reform?

Cheyenne says her upbringing in a conservative suburb of New Orleans sheltered her from progressive movements, but that changed when she attended Loyola University of New Orleans.

“I didn’t want to be complacent and wanted to do active work,” Cheyenne says.

During undergrad, she became exposed to the world of social justice and did a lot of service work in the New Orleans community. She worked for Loyola’s law clinic which focused on immigration and criminal justice reform. Her passion for social justice led her to SPLC, where she’s been immersed in youth justice policy.

What keeps Cheyenne going?

“Working directly with system impacted people. The most rewarding part is ensuring people feel heard,” Cheyenne says.

Cheyenne’s dream youth justice goal

“I would like to see a system that is equitable and fair and where youth of color have the same rights as white children,” Cheyenne said.

Learn more about our YJLI Fellows here

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