Having a positive role model is key when developing as a young adult.
Dr. Ashley Payne, assistant professor of psychology at Missouri State University, understands the importance of having good role models to look up to. That is why she created a mentoring program for Black girls in local high schools.
“The program is called Black Girl Talk,” Payne said. “What we do is we pair Black high school girls, ages 14-18, with a Black women college student here at MSU.”
They focus on six key areas during the program:
- Mental health.
- Love and relationships.
“Our program is unique because it gives these high schoolers someone to look up to who has been through the same gendered racial experiences as them,” Payne said. “It gives these girls role models they may have never had before.”
How the program works
This year, the program operates in two area high schools: Springfield’s Central High School and Willard High School.
The team visits the high schools twice weekly for two hours a day.
“We start off by having a group activity based on the topic of conversation of that week,” Payne said. “For example, when our topic was body image, we had an MSU professor, Dr. Hannah Harris come and lead a yoga session for our students.”
Students then participate in small group discussions or focus groups that also serve as research for Payne and her students.
“This program is meant for mentoring, but we also use it for research, to add to the growing knowledge base of the experiences of Black girls and women, Payne said.
“During our discussions, we talk about how these key areas manifest for these students. We also talk about how we can change the maladaptive responses to these issues.”
Payne hopes that over time, this program can expand into more high schools in Springfield and surrounding areas.