Julia Lesnick

Julia Lesnick

PhD Student


B.S in Human Development, Cornell University

Areas of Interest:

Community Activism and Leadership, Mental and Behavioral Health, Service Accessibility, Youth Justice, Youth Thriving



Julia is a student in the combined Masters of Social Work-PhD in Social Welfare program. This year, she is completing her MSW and beginning the PhD program. Her scholarship focuses on understanding mechanisms of change in youth justice, and the implications for transforming juvenile legal policy and practice to promote equity, healing, and thriving for youth and their communities. Some of her specific questions include:

–       Who leads changes in youth justice? How does the juvenile legal system need to change in order to bring currently and formerly system-involved youth and families to the forefront of leadership?

–       Why do systemic changes in youth justice come about? What cultural values, financial or political objectives shape its evolution? What ideals and intentions would best guide youth justice for the future?

–       What are the processes through which change unfolds in youth justice? What are the ideological and logistical barriers that interfere with change in youth justice? When there is need for change, how can it be pursued more proactively and adaptively?

Since starting at UCLA, Julia has worked on research envisioning future approaches to youth justice in collaboration with community partners. She completed her MSW internships in Los Angeles at the Disability Community Resource Center as an advocate and case manager for adults with disabilities, and at the Social & Emotional Wellness Initiative, where she provided clinical counseling for youth and facilitated social-emotional learning curriculum for elementary summer school students and high school students in foster care.

Prior to UCLA, Julia graduated from Cornell University in 2018 with her B.S. in Human Development and a minor in Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. At Cornell, her scholarship focused on research-practice partnerships, and adolescent relationships and mental health. She also worked with Cornell Cooperative Extension to develop trauma-informed care training for afterschool programs, and taught in a degree program for incarcerated students. After graduating, she worked at NYC’s child welfare and juvenile justice agency, and at a community-based social service agency on the evaluation and quality improvement of youth leadership and mental health programs.