South Huntington

School District

WWHS Students Featured in

TED-Ed Student Talks

Walt Whitman High School and South Huntington School District are proud to recognize four exceptional students for their recent work with the Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition presented by various research topics to be featured on TedEd Student Talks. Whitman students Zahra Choudry, Erin Torres, Ira Dubey and Salma Laraki each sought out to inform others about important topics ranging from healthy food choices and economic accessibility to anxiety and epigenetics.


The student's involvement with the Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition helped spearhead their research endeavors. The mission of the Huntington Breast Cancer Coalition’s student program is to plant the seeds of environmental health education and advocacy. Their programs focus on health risks and the importance of environmental research to provide a wealth of knowledge related to the causation of chronic diseases. “It’s amazing seeing these young ladies do this and the personal connections they’ve made,” shared Dr, Matthew Murphy, Supervisor of Math, Science, Technology Education, Business Education & Instructional Technology. “This is a great accomplishment and it’s exciting to see their work be published and featured.”


Each student chose topics that felt personal to them, making their research applicable within their own lives and relatable to others. Junior student and environmental health ambassador Zahra Choudry chose to delve into the economic issues that affect food choices throughout the country. Lack of access to healthy choices due to financial burden becomes the cause of health deficits in lower income households that lead to worsening issues over time. “Low-income areas don’t have the same access to healthy foods and resources, so there are high rates of obesity and health issues,” Zahra shared in her TedEd presentation. The inspiration for this research topic came from her own experience growing up eating quick and easy to acquire meals that in turn affected her body. In her research, Zahra discusses how the government plays a role in subsidizing ingredients commonly used in fast food chains, explaining the reason fast food is so cheap. Zahra further explained how the problem is not lack of food but rather economic and financial instability. If healthy foods are consistently priced higher than fast food, lower-income areas will continue to lack the resources to allow them access to healthy foods and thus resulting in greater risk of health issues. There are options for those seeking improvements in their overall nutrition and fortunately, Zahra did exceptional work in presenting her recommendations on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.


Stress and anxiety also play a huge role in our overall health. Regardless of whether or not someone is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, all people have felt some degree of anxiety and stress in their lives. Senior Erin Torres shared her story of how generalized anxiety disorder presented itself and how her experience helped change her perspective on mental health. Common beliefs often come from the stigmas around mental illnesses and disorders due to inaccurate media depictions. Stigmas can make those afflicted feel uneasy in seeking help and expressing themselves, often worsening symptoms and delaying treatment. In her research, Erin discusses how America is the 7th most stressed country in the world. “We live in a society that prioritizes climbing the labor ladder,” Erin shared. Many people do not consider stress and mental health to be environmental issues. Our bodies produce a cascade of stress hormones that lead to physiological changes and cause us to engage in habits that can lead to long-term damage. Because of the recurring stigmas against youth mental health, it took Erin 5 years to receive a proper diagnosis. Anxiety manifests in several ways, whether it be through intrusive worries and thoughts. Erin notes how stigma impacts every aspect of society, causing fear to seek mental health care for concern over retaliation. Her research and work within her own experiences have allowed her the opportunity to prioritize mental health and through her presentation, she encourages others “to do your own research to address the stigma.”


Ira Dubey and Salma Laraki also took anxiety into consideration in their research on epigenetics. Epigenetics describes how environmental exposures can change your genetic expression which may be inherited by your children. Stress and anxiety can impact all aspects of health and through their research in epigenetics, they discuss the impact such stress can have on future generations. Ira goes on in explaining how stress can raise cortisol levels that often contribute to the development of diseases, and so our goal should be to minimize stress to reduce these levels. By identifying stressors and eliminating them wherever possible, it becomes easier to self-regulate and tackle these anxieties. Stress is not always a quick fix, for example, economic disparities, but there are aspects of our lives that we have control of and can help to minimize stress for the betterment of ourselves and future generations.


Congratulations to these students on representing Walt Whitman in the TedEd Student Talks series! We thank Ira Dubey, Salma Laraki, Erin Torres, and Zahra Choudry for bringing these important topics to the forefront and providing ways to improve our health, both physically and mentally.


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