The Institute of Women & Ethnic Studies is a national non-profit organization founded in 1993 in response to the overwhelming health disparities among women of color.
Our organization is dedicated to improving the physical, mental and spiritual health and quality of life of women of color and their families, especially those who are socio-economically disadvantaged.

IWES was recently mentioned in the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States' (SIECUS) eighth edition of the SIECUS State Profiles: A Portrait of Sexuality Education and Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs in the States.  


The SIECUS State Profiles continue to serve as the most in-depth resource for advocates, educators, policymakers, public health professionals, parents, youth, and community stakeholders across the country who are working to advance more comprehensive approaches to sexuality education and eliminate harmful abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.   

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Follow the links above and below to "like" IWES on Facebook and "follow" IWES on Twitter for daily announcements featuring interesting articles, events, and opportunities that relate to the health and well-being of women of color and their families.
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Fatured IWES Film - Stress'n
Featured IWES Film


Stress'n is the adaptation of a Role Model Story translated into film through the MAP program. Role Model Stories are anonymous, true stories captured through interviews with local peers that have decided to make a change to practice safer sex and reduce their risk of contracting HIV.   


Stress'n is a short film about a girl who finds out her ex-boyfriend has AIDS in front of her current boyfriend. Find out how it affects her current relationship and whether or not she decides to get tested for HIV.


Follow the link below to check out our Iwesnola YouTube Channel to see more IWES films.


View our videos on YouTube 

Visit the IWES website
for helpful links and resources and to get more information about our mission, staff, and programs.
Meet the IWES Management Team! 
Denese Headshot
Denese Shervington MD/MPH
President/CEO & Co-Founder

Dr. Shervington has a distinguished career in academic psychiatry and public mental health. At IWES she has created a community-based post-Katrina mental health recovery division and directs the MPC!-NOLA! program. She is also a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Tulane University. Dr. Shervington is a graduate of the New York University School of Medicine, and she completed her residency in Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. She is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and has also received a Masters of Public Health in Population Studies and Family Planning from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Rheneisha Headshot
Rheneisha Robertson, MPH
Executive Director

Rheneisha Robertson joined IWES in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and became the Executive Director of the organization in 2007. Prior to this, she served as Director of Care Services for a local HIV/ AIDS serving non-profit organization, providing oversight of HIV/AIDS primary medical care and case management services, and as lead counselor with the Teen Parent Services program, an Illinois Department of Health program to assist teen parents through the provision of social services and support.

She received a Master of Public Health in Health Education/ Communication and Maternal Child Health from the Tulane University School of Public Health (2001) and her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Xavier University of Louisiana (1999). Rheneisha returned to New Orleans post-Katrina with a commitment to engage in community-centered and driven recovery efforts that reflect and address issues impacting women and youth, particularly among women and youth of color and disenfranchised communities.

Lisa Headshot
Lisa Richardson, PhD
Director of Research & Development

Dr. Richardson joined IWES as the interim Executive Director during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and currently serves as the Director of Research & Development. During her graduate studies, Dr. Richardson worked with IWES as a consultant, evaluator, and Adolescent Advisory Board member while completing her doctorate from the University of New Orleans in Urban Studies and co-directing a school-based program, Students at the Center.

In 2002 Dr. Richardson was invited to serve as a Visiting Professor at Florida State University in the Urban and Regional Planning Department, and went on to an Assistant Professorship at California State University Northridge. While an Assistant Professor she was dually appointed in the Pan-African Studies Department and the Urban Studies Department. Dr. Richardson's research interests emphasize community development, urban education, social justice movements, and public health disparities, particularly HIV infection in the African American community. Dr. Richardson currently participates in the Gulf States Human Rights Working Group, the Equity and Inclusion Campaign, and the Raising Women's Voices national network of advocates and activists working for healthcare reform to meet the needs of all women and girls throughout the life course.

Maisha Headshot
Maisha Joshua
Finance Director

Maisha Joshua joined IWES as the Finance Director in August 2007. Prior to that, she worked as a financial consultant for IWES and other non-profit and for profit organizations. Ms. Joshua is in the process of attaining a Masters of Business Administration, focusing on Management Information Systems, at the University of New Orleans. She has a Degree in Communications/Advertising 
from Loyola University of New Orleans. Prior to Ms. Joshua's work with IWES, worked in a community-based retail coffee business. She also worked with Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership in New Haven, CT working as a Program Coordinator of a Computer Center. She is committed to achieving positive academic and social outcomes with children living in high poverty urban neighborhoods using multimedia devices and techniques to interact with people that many urban youth would not normally come in contact with, resulting in bridging gaps that exist within communities which are sometimes divided.

Welcome to the inaugural Institute Of Women And Ethnic Studies Quarterly E-Blast. Every November, February, May, and August, look out for this E-Blast to update you on  our programs and events.  


Thanks for continuing to be a part of the IWES family!

Media Advocates for Prevention

MAP is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funded program adapted from the evidence-based Community PROMISE model. We work with a core group of Peer Advocates (PAs), ages 15-18, to develop HIV prevention messages for youth in New Orleans. After an extensive recruiting and application process, we have selected a dynamic group of new Peer Advocates, who met for the first time on October 24th.    


Welcome to the 2011-2012 MAP Cohort!

Jamanii Brown, 16, Grace King

Anika Butler, 16, New Orleans Charter Science & Math

Alexander Collins, 17, NOPLAY

Naijha Dailey, 16, New Orleans Charter Science & Math

Erick Dillard, 18, John McDonogh

Keiandr� Hall, 16, New Orleans Charter Science & Math

Nicholas Hampton, 17, John McDonogh

Nancy Kambi, 16, McDonogh 35

Happiea Martin, 16, McDonogh 35

Seandr� Napoleon, 16, Joseph S. Clark

Denise Para, 15, Joseph S. Clark

Rashawn Ward, 17, Joseph S. Clark

Larisa Williams, 16, McDonogh 35


As we train our new cohort, PA alumni continue to do outreach across the city. They joined us twice in September to collate and distribute "MAP kits", which are safer sex kits containing male and female condoms, lubricant, a list of places to get free HIV testing, and Role Model Stories from local youth about changes they made to practice safer sex.  


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Follow @map_nola on Twitter for daily sexual health tips.


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 Like MAP on Facebook to keep up with our videos and events.


 If you or someone you know is a youth aged 12-18, e-mail MAP to receive a FREE MAP kit, or ASK A PA!

School-Based Health Center Engagement Project
The SBHC Engagement Project, a youth health advocacy and leadership development program to increase awareness and utilization of participating SBHCs, is implemented in partnership with the Louisiana Public Health Institute's (LPHI) School Health Connection Program. 


In June, the SBHC team traveled to Chicago to participate in the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care's annual conference. The meeting provided an outlet for staff to discuss the health needs of students on a local and national level. IWES staff subsequently attended the  Louisiana Assembly on School-Based Health Care's fall conference in Baton Rouge. 


IWES staff has participated in and coordinated outreach activities such as parent orientations, registration nights, Community Advisory Committees, Youth Advisory Committees, and open houses in school clinics for school administration and faculty at the following local high schools:

  • Warren Easton
  • McDonogh 35
  • Eleanor McMain
  • O. Perry Walker
  • Walter L. Cohen
  • New Orleans Charter Science and Math

The SBHC team has created a strong presence in the community at-large through the following activities:

  • Presenting at a Central City Partnership meeting;
  • Organizing a tour of Sarah T. Reed's School-Based Health Center for DeShannon Russel, aide to Congressman Cedric Richmond; and
  • Coordinating an SBHC planning meeting for Sarah T. Reed including representatives of Daughters of Charity, Reed administrators, New Orleans East community leaders, and LPHI School Health Connection staff.

Focus on Youth with Informed Parents and Children Together

FOY + ImPACT is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded 8-session evidence-based small group education program that works with youth aged 12-15 to help them develop the skills and knowledge needed to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  


The first year of FOY+ImPACT was filled with successes and lessons learned and the second program year has gotten off to a great start! Our first cohort was conducted with 10 girls in partnership with Desire Street Ministries during the months of February, March, and April 2011. During June and July we partnered with three summer camps;  Kingsley House, Excel Star , and  Desire for Change - Young Ladies of Desire. Most recently IWES partnered with the Youth Empowerment Project and we are very excited to start sessions with a group of girls at YEP on November 3rd.  


In addition to facilitating sessions with girls and their parents, FOY has also coordinated three Youth Programs Advisory Board (YPAB) meetings with local youth, community stakeholders, and partners. These meetings have not only helped inform IWES youth programming, but they also serve as a place for youth advocates and supporters to come together and talk about local youth issues like juvenile justice and school food reform.  


If you're interested in joining the Youth Programs Advisory Board, email Melanie Powers.  

Making Proud Choices! - NOLA!  

IWES was one of six entities in Louisiana awarded monies to fund teen responsibility and pregnancy prevention programs through the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative. Through this initiative, IWES has created MPC!-NOLA!, which serves youth aged 11-13 through the utilization of the 8-module evidence-based Making Proud Choices curriculum along with two additional modules developed by Dr. Denese Shervington which focus on emotional health and resiliency.


During year one, MPC!-NOLA! was piloted at schools, community based organizations, and in faith based settings. "Stepfionne and Maya did a great job of getting our kids to engage and learn the impact of the choices they make and our teens benefitted greatly from the education and relationships that were forged over several weeks," said Penny Williams, Co-Founder and Executive Director at Excite All Stars.   

Excite All-Stars Graduation
Excite All-Stars Graduation

IWES began full implementation of MPC!-NOLA! in October at the Sojourner Truth Community Center and local schools amidst a lot of positive feedback from parents whose children graduated from MPC!-NOLA!  "As a community it is so important that we provide our young people with the tools they need to make informed decisions," said Shawn Verrett, whose two children graduated from the program.  "Daniel Moynihan said it best "everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts" and we must give our young people the facts to navigate through their teen years successfully."   


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Like MPC!-NOLA! on Facebook for more information and regular updates about the program.

Teen Outreach Program
Through the Department of Health & Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health Family Planning Program was awarded a grant to implement the evidence-based Teen Outreach Program (TOP) throughout the entire state of Louisiana. IWES was selected as one of the agencies qualified to implement TOP, making it the newest youth program at IWES.


TOP serves youth aged 12-18 through a 9-month program that focuses on teen pregnancy prevention and academic outcomes, including drop-out and course failure rates. The curriculum includes lessons on sexual health, values, goal-setting, relationships with friends and family, and other topics relevant to youth. TOP also includes a community service-learning component in which participants plan their own service projects, carry them out, and strategize sustainability.


In July, IWES piloted the Teen Outreach Program with 50 participants at two sites - Kingsley House and Harmony Oaks Apartments. The sexual and reproductive anatomy session stood out at both sites as one of the most exciting topics, as it was new and helpful information for most participants. 


We are now embarking on our first full year of TOP. The first TOP "clubs" began in October at the BW Cooper Housing Development and Excel Star, and several more are in the works.


If you or your organization is interested in being part of the Teen Outreach Program, contact Ragan Collins or Della Wright.

Becoming A Responsible Teen

In addition to implementing youth programs around the city, IWES also serves in a training, fidelity monitoring, and quality assurance role for the BART program. BART is one component of the Louisiana Public Health Institute's Orleans Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project, and is implemented by two partner organizations,  Communities in Schools and Job 1.


BART is primarily an HIV prevention program, with an additional emphasis on pregnancy. It also includes information on communication skills, problem solving, and negotiation. BART serves youth aged 15-18, and in its pilot year it reached nearly 50 youth.


IWES staff conducted two trainings in which it certified 15 people in the BART curriculum. In order to monitor the implementation for fidelity to the original intervention, IWES staff regularly attends BART sessions. Additionally, IWES provides supplemental trainings to enhance the skills of BART educators in areas including classroom management, sexual and reproductive health information, and cultural competence.

Healing Is The Revolution 
 In June 2011, IWES was approached by the Chaka Khan Foundation and Essence Communications Inc. to embark upon a new initiative with the aim of enhancing the resiliency and overall well-being of 50 African American women in New Orleans to support their achievement of a life-enhancing goal. This year-long initiative commenced during the 2011 Essence Music Festival with a Welcome Reception featuring Chaka Khan, a private empowerment session with Ms. Khan and author/inspirational speaker Ms. Iyanla Vanzant, and a VIP experience during Chaka's performance at the Music Festival.


Over the course of the year, up until the 2012 Essence Music Festival, the fifty women participate in monthly personal development workshops as well as bimonthly meetings with a mentor matched according to each woman's individual goal. In the monthly meetings they are exploring and developing personal strength and resiliency and with their mentors they work towards achievable steps toward their specific goals. Some examples of goals the women have chosen are first-time home ownership, furthering education, credit repair, and losing weight.


In the past three months the women have demonstrated a remarkable strength and ability to support each other and open up about their challenges. The topics of the first three gatherings were: 1) Group Process & Building Group Cohesion, 2) The Developmental Life Cycle & My Personal Mapping, and, 3) Who Am I? (Where Have I Been, and Where Am I Going?). IWES staff compiled a "word cloud" of many of the common themes, distributed by frequency, that emerged from the personal mapping exercise in which participants drew a map of their personal journeys highlighting what events, ideas, and people in their lives have contributed to who they are today.

HIR Word Cloud
Healing Is the Revolution Word Cloud

IWES will continue to offer opportunities for the women to gather with their families, engage in community service and work with Chaka Khan and Essence Music Festival towards a more holistically healthy self.  


For more information about the partnership, go to the Superlife Transformation website

Thanks for taking a moment to read our Quarterly E-Blast. If you ever have any questions, comments, or feedback, please feel free to email us.