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Student Profile: Sunaray

Morristown, N.J. (December 11, 2015) – Sunaray "Sunnie" Johnson, '16 is taking the field of psychology by storm. After spending a full year designing and conducting original research on childhood trauma and resilience in the Black community, she was invited to present her work at an October 2015 conference of black clinicians committed to promoting culturally sensitive research and curricula on sexuality in Philadelphia.

Her paper, "The Bounce Back: Black Women and Childhood Trauma" found support for the idea that Black women experienced greater levels of childhood trauma and at the same time, have increased levels of resilience, in comparison to their White counterparts. Informally, this phenomena is known as "bounceback" in the Black community. However, Sunnie's experiment is one of the first to look specifically at the Black community and adverse childhood events. Therefore, her findings demonstrate new empirical evidence.

Raised in Jersey City, her parents focused on family activities for her and her sister Finesse. Her father is a retired fire chief of the Jersey City Fire Department and her mother works as a critical care technician in a local emergency room. Both Sunnie and Finesse were surrounded by music, education, and opportunities to explore their worlds. Her father returned to school upon his retirement and earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in Public Administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Both parents emphasized education and Sunnie took up the challenge.

She applied to 12 schools and was accepted into nine, choosing CSE because of the closeness of the community and the financial aid package.

"I went to Marist High School in Bayonne where the classes were small, it gave me free reign to seize opportunities. I felt most comfortable in that environment," she says. "I want recognition for my work and I will not just be a number," she adds.

Sunnie chose to major in psychology because she likes analyzing.

"I'm a thinker. I want to know the deeper meaning of things so I look for the source. Psychology allows that," she explains.

She will be continuing her education, but she is not sure where. She offers, "While I was in Philadelphia, I was approached by an assistant professor at University of Kentucky, urging me to apply. I am conflicted about moving out of my comfort zone, but I know it will ensure growth."

She was also invited to present at the association's next conference in St. Thomas in April, 2016. As to what field of psychology will she enter?

"I'm not sure yet," she explains. "I like research and behavioral psychology, but I really want to counsel adolescents and help them get through that stage of life."

Her biggest cheerleader and main source of academic support on campus is Dr. Chloe Bland, assistant professor of psychology.

"Sunnie is a gifted student with a passion for her work. She thinks deeply about issues of race in the US and her research reflects her innovative ideas," says Dr. Bland.

Her paper will be extended for her Honors Program capstone and submitted to the Journal of Black Sexologist and Clinicians in the spring 2016 for publication.

"Publishing not only gets my name out there, but gives me additional credibility for grad school." Sunnie says proudly.

In addition to her studies and Honors Program, Sunnie also works in the Academic Success Center as a writing and psychology tutor and is a success coach for freshmen.

Her mantra comes from her dad: See the captain; be the captain. She is learning to control her destiny with the support of those around her.

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