Written by T. Nicole
Therapist and doctoral candidate, Unique C. Starks, MSW, DSW, is on a mission to eradicate the school to prison pipeline along with stigmas surrounding mental wellness in the African American community. The ACLU defines the school to prison pipeline as a “Disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” Starks’ goal is to bring awareness to the mental state of black youth and how systemic racism plays an intricate role in feeding the school to prison pipeline. She also wishes to highlight ways mass incarceration has disproportionately affected black families, specifically the mental health of the children in those families.
Born in Rosedale, New York, it was instilled in Unique throughout her childhood that she would attend college. She was accepted into multiple prestigious universities for her undergraduate degree. Early on in her undergraduate studies as an intern, Unique observed that all the youth she encountered had been impacted by the justice system in some way. Either they had been incarcerated, were on parole or probation, or their parents were. Armed with this information, Unique furthered her studies along this path in graduate school. Her research and experience have granted her a deep understanding of the plight of this population. In the African American community, our children are disproportionately medicated, punished, and jailed for performing the same infractions their white counterparts who often receive detention, after-school programs, and community service for.
Unique’s passion to serve this specific community and cause led her to create The Starks Foundation. The Starks Foundation was established to alleviate mental health stigmas within the African American community, but to also support Black youth exposed to trauma. Unique’s specific expertise focuses on youth exposure to domestic violence. The foundation aims to obtain programming, resources, and funding to provide those affected with a voice. Through the foundation, Unique is making a tangible change to redistribute resources to people that have been systematically targeted. Starks has built a solid team within the foundation, each with a different specialty to provide a spectrum of support for the youth.
Unique believes, “There’s room for everyone in this fight.” The Starks Foundation proves how serious she is by taking a major step to fight for youth with mental health diagnoses also impacted by the school to prison pipeline.
To find out more about The Starks Foundation, you can visit Unique’s Instagram and LinkedIn pages here: