Meet Jason Okonofua
NCYL's New Board President
Dear friends and supporters,
Happy new year! I am thrilled to introduce myself to you for the first time as the National Center for Youth Law’s new Board President. 2021 will be an important year for NCYL as we celebrate our 50-year anniversary and a pivotal year for the children and youth we serve. I look forward to reflecting with you on 50 years of advancing justice on behalf of young people, as well as our vision of another 50 years of incredible impact.
As the year begins I would like to tell you a little bit about myself and why I am so honored to serve as NCYL’s Board President.
I am a first generation American, born and raised in Memphis, TN by my Nigerian father and American mother. I am the youngest of three brothers and the only one to complete college. I left home at 16 with a full scholarship to attend a prep school on an island off the coast of Rhode Island and matriculated to Northwestern University outside of Chicago, IL.
After earning degrees in Psychology and African American Studies, I moved to California to earn my Masters and PhD at Stanford University where I focused on uncovering mechanisms by which stereotypes contribute to societal inequities and developing scalable psychological strategies to mitigate the inequities.
I explore these processes in a variety of settings (e.g., adult probation and parole) but my projects to mitigate the school-to-prison pipeline brought me into contact with NCYL. For years, I gave presentations across the United States with NCYL staff about the science of implicit and explicit bias and policy and psychological remedies to its impact on school discipline and juvenile detention. I continue to work with NCYL on scalable means to offset inequity in school outcomes.
My latest work cut suspension rates by 12% and significantly mitigated racial disparities in it with a sample of +13,000 students across 17 cities. I continue to be driven by my fathers’ experiences as an immigrant in the United States and my older brothers as Black people in the South. My brothers and I were all suspended from school multiple times and incarcerated before the age of 18. I was fortunate enough to land a path out of the typical disenfranchised trajectory for Black youth in the South and too many other regions of this country. I work to establish and normalize the support and opportunity that made the difference for me.
NCYL is an amazing organization with a 50-year history of affecting large-scale change for children and youth. I can draw a straight line from this organization’s work directly to my professional interests and personal values.
I look forward to partnering with my fellow board members, staff and all of you, our invaluable supporters, as we advance justice in 2021 and beyond.
Jason Okonofua, Ph.D.
Board President, National Center for Youth Law
Assistant Professor, Psychology Department, University of California, Berkeley
Founder and Executive Director, Mindset Science Solutions