The System


The Girls

Read about Shangra, Sheila, Stephanie and Lateefah, the girls featured in GIRL TROUBLE, and find out where they are today.

A candid shot of a smiling Shangra, a young African American teen with shoulder-length braided hair. A red music note is visible on the wall behind her.


Shangra was 16 and in trouble for selling drugs when filmmakers Lexi Leban and Lidia Szajko began making GIRL TROUBLE in 1999. Shangra grew up with her mother in the Bayview Hunter’s Point area and in shelters and temporary housing all over San Francisco. Shangra got a job at The Center for Young Women’s Development after watching her mother struggle with addiction and poverty, but she began selling crack cocaine to earn more money to keep herself and her mother off the streets.

Since leaving Walden House, a residential drug rehabilitation program for girls in San Francisco, Shangra has given birth to two children and is busy being a mom. She works at a popular clothing store in San Francisco’s Union Square and as a security guard at the Museum of the African Diaspora. Shangra has been participating in the national outreach campaign for GIRL TROUBLE, speaking to probation officers, counselors and judges about improving conditions for girls in the juvenile justice system.

A photo of Sheila, a smiling Samoan American teen, her dark hair is tied back in a neat bun and she is wearing a white tank top


Sheila was 17 at the start of production on GIRL TROUBLE and had been in and out of the juvenile justice system for offenses including drug dealing, assault and a hit-and-run car accident. She grew up in the Sunnydale housing projects in San Francisco, one of seven children in a close-knit Samoan-American family. Her father, who is an alcoholic, and her brothers had been in and out of jail for violent offenses. In GIRL TROUBLE, Sheila attempted to enroll in City College of San Francisco but was sidetracked when she ended a drug-fueled family argument by shooting her brother.

As of 2005, Sheila completed her drug treatment program and is training to work in construction. In August 2005, she gave birth to a girl. She has successfully completed two years of her four-year probation.

A photo of Stephanie, a young Caucasian woman smiling with her lips together; she is wearing glasses with green frames, and her blonde-brown hair is parted on the side and pinned back.


Stephanie was 16 and pregnant with her 19-year-old boyfriend’s child at the start of GIRL TROUBLE. As the documentary opened, Stephanie was living under an alias in an effort to outrun a warrant for her arrest for leaving a court-ordered group home placement. Stephanie grew up in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco with her grandmother. Stephanie’s parents used drugs, and her father died of a heroin overdose when she was four years old. She entered the juvenile justice system in middle school.

Since GIRL TROUBLE wrapped in 2004, Stephanie has completed her Associate’s Degree at City College of San Francisco and is now applying to four-year universities to work towards her Bachelor’s Degree.

Lateefah Simon, a young African American woman; her long, braided hair is pulled back and she is smiling and giving a speech in an outdoor setting.
She is wearing a black tank top and glasses.


Lateefah Simon grew up with a single mother in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. Simon was 22, a single mother and the executive director of The Center for Young Women’s Development when filming began on GIRL TROUBLE. Simon first came to the Center in 1994, at age 17, after she quit her fast-food job at Taco Bell. An after-school job at the Center paid twice as much, and tackled the addiction and AIDS crises afflicting people that Simon knew personally.

Simon has gained worldwide recognition for helping young women transform their lives and communities. In 2003, she won the prestigious $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship genius grant. In October 2005, Simon left the Center to work at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office developing new programs to support adults and juveniles as they leave the justice system. She plans to attend Mills College in Oakland in 2006.

Read a Q&A with community leader and youth activist Lateefah Simon >>

Find out more about the programs that helped the girls >>


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