Tag Archives: Education

We Achieve What We Believe: How to Encourage African American Students to Believe in Their Academic Abilities


This post continues our blog series regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res


By Giselle Hendy (Special Project Coordinator, APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs)

For too long educational stakeholders including researchers, administrators, teachers, parents and even students placed value in the notion that African American students have less interest and capacity in education. What is most troubling is that African American students may themselves hold these beliefs.  This could lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak, contributing to achievement at standards below actual capabilities.  Parents and teachers must be sure that they are instilling positive beliefs around African American students and high levels of academic achievement.

Many years ago, I worked as a third-grade teacher. One of my students, Anya*, was truly a model for all; very helpful, obedient, and always on task. Anya earned straight A’s across subjects, with the exception of math. I couldn’t understand her persistent low scores in math, so, I talked to Anya and her grandmother about this anomaly.  The response I received and the lack of reaction from grandma was absolutely shocking.

Anya told me “I just can’t do math. Black women aren’t good at math.” Appalled, I replied “Who told you that?”   Anya replied, “My mama.”

Consciousness is awareness of reality within the limitations of our minds.”

Or, how about this one “Thoughts become things.”

Or, the classic “What one believes one can achieve.”


However cliché these anecdotes may seem, the underlying message is poignant: we are only limited by what we believe we cannot do. Anya’s mom had the best of intentions for her daughter. She did not realize how her words, probably made in passing, had such a profound effect on Anya’s beliefs about her ability and her academic performance.  The beliefs we hold have power over our behaviors.  Cognitive biases influence our interpretation of and reactions to experiences in our lives.  It is imperative that African American youth are encouraged to develop a positive academic identity, fostering the belief that they can achieve at high levels in school.


So, what can we do about it?

There is much to be done at every level, from a policy level down to the social interactions between educational stakeholders.  Each of us must be mindful of what our foundational beliefs are regarding African-Americans and academic success.  Whether we mean to or not, our implicit beliefs about students influence the ways in which we interact with them and ultimately how students feel about school and their place in it.


  1. Assess your personal attitudes and beliefs. We don’t’ always understand how deep our beliefs may go. Sometimes our behavior may even surprise us. In the same vein, we may not always directly, or verbally express our beliefs; they are oftentimes transmitted through our actions. For this reason, it is important to assess our own beliefs, and examine how those beliefs can be translated to students through our actions. Watch this video on Understanding your Racial Biases, then imagine how your own biases around race may have affected the youth you interact with in positive or negative ways.
  2. Promote a narrative of African American intellectual excellence. Provide African American youth with a counternarrative for their place in education. Beyond Black history month, parents and teacher should seek and provide examples of intellectual excellence displayed by African Americans nationally and globally, currently and historically. The more information students have on examples of other African Americans, people who look like them, exceeding standards for education, the less they will be influenced by negative messages about what they can achieve.
  3. Intelligence and ability are malleable. Being smart is not a fixed trait. Oftentimes we send messages that only some people can do very well in school. The incremental theory of intelligence reveals that intelligence and ability can be improved with persistence and hard work (Blackwell, Trzesniewski, & Dweck, 2007). If students believe their efforts can improve their outcomes, they are likely to persist and be more engaged in school. Encourage your students to have patience and keep trying to see better results.
  4. Provide positive socialization messages with regards to race. It is important to prepare our students for the inequities they may face in society. However, research has shown that preparation for bias messages can have a negative effect on academic outcomes (Howard & Bowman, 1985). More positive messages regarding race can lead to improved academic outcomes for African American students. Such messages celebrate the richness of the culture, or promote notions of basic equality among people. Students who are positively socialized around their culture tend to do better in school.

I made a few of these points during a long discussion with my former student Anya and her grandmother. With some additional tutoring through their church, Anya brought an F to an A in math by the end of the school year.  I recently ran into Anya’s grandmother, and she explained to me how influential that one social exchange was to her family.  The younger grandchildren have not received the same messages about Black women, education and ability as their older sister.  Per grandma, Anya continues to thrive academically, and socially as she makes plans for college!

*The student’s name has been changed to preserve confidentiality.



Blackwell, L.S., Trzesniewski, K.H., & Dweck, C.S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child Development, 78(1), 246-263.

Bowman, P.J., & Howard, C. (1985). Race-related socialization, motivation, and academic achievement: A study of Black youths in three-generation families. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 24(2), 134-141.



Giselle Hendy is the special project coordinator for APA’s Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs. She is also a professor at Baltimore City Community College and a doctoral student in developmental psychology at Howard University under the supervision of Dr. A. Wade Boykin.  Ms. Hendy focuses her research efforts on improving academic outcomes for African American youth through the incorporation of student cultural resources during instructional pursuits.

What Does A Professor Look Like?



By Kevin L. Nadal, PhD


As a child of poor immigrants from rural Philippines, I often heard about how my parents grew up without running water and limited electricity. They told my brothers and me stories about the things that they didn’t have while growing up, and how they overcame traumas of war and poverty. These anecdotes made me feel equally grateful and guilty, while also motivating me to strive for success. In fact, it is through these stories that I learned the importance of attaining a college education as a way of fulfilling our parents’ American dreams and somehow compensating for the historical trauma that my family had overcome for centuries.


When I was accepted into the University of California at Irvine, I declared a major of psychology. In retrospect, I did so for two basic reasons: 1) because I enjoyed an introductory psychology class I took in high school and 2) because I wanted to help people. I thought that when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree that I could be a psychologist, and I naively held onto that belief until my third year of college.


At some point during my college career, I realized that I had only had two high school teachers of color – a Filipina who taught World History and a Chicano who taught Religious Studies. Having gone to a high school that was 70% people of color (and about 50% Filipino American), being taught by White teachers (and learning through White lenses) was the norm. In college, my first few semesters were taught by White professors (although more than half of the students were Asian American), which made me feel like it would be the same type of educational experience.


However, sometime during my third year, I was introduced to my first professors of color – a Korean American woman who taught Political Science and a Black American man who taught Psychology. From that point on, I went out of my way to find other professors of color too. So, I signed up for the Multicultural Education class taught by Dr. Jeanett Castellanos – a class that would forever change my life.


Our classroom was filled mostly with students of color – each with unique perspectives and ideas. Dr. Castellanos had a way of connecting with each student – finding a way of making them feel special. Everything she had taught in the class was something I had great interest in. We talked about racism and immigration and privilege. I found myself participating more than I had in any other class. I wondered why I loved this class so much more than my psychology classes, and I realized that it was because we were talking about issues that were so meaningful to me.


Dr. Castellanos (or Dr. C as I affectionately called her) pulled me aside one day and asked me to meet with her in her office. At first, I thought I was getting in trouble (which I later learned is a common first reaction for any student of color or child of immigrants when a teacher asks for a personal meeting). However, she assured me that it was because she wanted to talk about my future. She asked me what I would be doing after college, and I told her I was going to be a psychologist. She asked me about where I would be going for graduate school, and I said, “What is graduate school?”


She sweetly replied: “Well you’re going to have to go to graduate school if you want to become a psychologist.”


I was dumbfounded; I had no idea.


She continued: “Well, I think you should get a Ph.D.”


“You mean medical school? I don’t want to be a doctor.”


Smiling, she responded, “Well, you would be a different type of doctor. You’d have a doctorate.”


What I remember most about that conversation is that she did not shame me; instead, she educated me. She taught me about what I needed to do to get into graduate school. She recommended that I get my Master’s degree first, so that I knew exactly what I wanted to do. She told me to apply for the Ronald E. McNair program and another undergraduate research program – which were both designed to ensure that students like me were aware of the resources and opportunities to succeed. I got into both.


In my senior year, Dr. C pulled out the brochures of the programs that she thought I should apply for. (The internet was not as sophisticated back then, so very little information was available online). I chose a handful of schools that seemed interesting, and each sent back big catalogues with applications. I wrote my essays about how I wanted to be a Filipino American professor and how I wanted to study Filipino American psychology.


When I got my first acceptance letter, I was absolutely shocked; I thought there had been a mistake. As a few more rolled in, I was still in disbelief. While this would continue to be a theme in my life – that any success I have is somehow a mistake – Dr. C assured me that I deserved all of those acceptances. She helped me navigate my decision of where to go, and for twenty years, she continued to be someone who I could reach out to for support and guidance.


Experiences like these are why it has become so important for me to ensure that young people of color, particularly those with multiple marginalized intersectional identities, could indeed recognize that they, too, could be become professors. Perhaps many of us do not know what is possible because we don’t have exposure to professors or others who look like us. Perhaps many of us are used to seeing White people as our teachers, authority figures, and celebrity role models, that we don’t recognize that we, too, can be those same influential figures. As my good friend Dr. Silvia Mazzula always says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”


Ten years later, after attaining a Master’s degree and a doctorate, I actually became a tenure-track assistant professor. The only problem was that I was still one of the few professors of color in my department, one of two queer people, and definitely the only Filipino American. Though I had the same (and arguably more) credentials than my peers, I was used to being talked down to by my older White male colleagues or being asked “Where is the professor?” when I started lecturing on the first day of class. So not only is visibility important to encourage young people of color to enter the academy, but it is also important for us to change the face, the narrative, and the norm of academia.


Today, Dr. Mazzula and I continue to work on different projects to enhance visibility of people of color within academia – from the Latina Researchers Network to the LGBTQ Scholars of Color Network. More recently, we’ve promoted the hashtag #ThisIsWhatAProfessorLooksLike to show the faces of academia – or at least the faces that we often don’t see. No longer should we be comfortable with the status quo of having only White professors. No longer should we be complicit in allowing our future generations to believe that they cannot achieve their goals. While there could definitely be more of us, we do exist. And we are fierce, fabulous, loud, and proud.


Nadal Blog Post



Dr. Kevin Leo Yabut Nadal is a Professor of Psychology at both John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He received his doctorate in counseling psychology from Columbia University in New York City and is one of the leading researchers in understanding the impacts of microaggressions , or subtle forms of discrimination, on the mental and physical health of people of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people; and other marginalized groups. He has published over 100 works on multicultural issues in the fields of psychology and education. A California-bred New Yorker, he was named one of People Magazine’s hottest bachelors in 2006; he once won an argument with Bill O’Reilly on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor”; and he was even once a Hot Topic on ABC’s “The View”. He has been featured in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS, the Weather Channel, the History Channel, HGTV, Philippine News, and The Filipino Channel. He is the author of eight books including Filipino American Psychology: A Handbook of Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice (2011, John Wiley and Sons), That’s So Gay: Microaggressions and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community (2013, APA Books), and Microaggressions and Traumatic Stress (2018, APA Books). He was the first openly gay President of the Asian American Psychological Association and the first person of color to serve as the Executive Director of the Center for LGBTQ Studies. He is a National Trustee of the Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS) and a co-founder of the LGBTQ Scholars of Color National Network. He has delivered hundreds of lectures across the United States, including the White House and the U.S. Capitol. He has won numerous awards, including the American Psychological Association Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest.


This is Why Social Media is the Secret to Success in Student Engagement

Social media competition. Raised hands trying to catch flying like signs / flat editable vector illustration, clip art

This article is cross-posted on APA’s Psych Learning Curve and GradPsych blogs.
Over the last few years as a School Psychology doctoral student, I have begun to experiment with various social media and technology platforms with hopes to improve efficiency and service delivery. I have found that the attention and information consumption of youth are structured into small but high-volume increments of time. Each social media platform serves its own purpose in the lives of our youth and as educators we must utilize this knowledge to bridge the educational gaps that exist.

This has sparked my interest in how social media can be used effectively in the classroom and it has influenced my career choices for the future. Our ability to receive information is becoming more accessible with advances in technology.  As technology begins to affect different areas of our lives we must take charge and change our approach of receiving and presenting knowledge.

For those of us in the field of school psychology, a portion of our responsibility is to assess and evaluate each student’s ability to learn and acquire knowledge. Just as technology grows and develops, our understanding of how students learn must follow.  When we think of education, most of us picture a teacher lecturing from a PowerPoint or a carefully outlined agenda with minimal student interaction. In the traditional sense, educating students has been viewed as a way of transmitting information from an all-knowing source (the teacher) to students waiting to be enlightened. In most cases this idea still resonates, but the way in which students are engaged has vastly changed over the last ten years.

A vast amount of social media platforms have been created over the past decade; Vine, SnapChat, Instagram, and Periscope to name just a few. With the use of these platforms, more people are using social media as a means of communicating, business, entertainment, and yes, even education. More students are engaged by what they can see or interact with, on an individual or group level. This type of environment promotes a more positive outlook on learning and presents a parallel between how students learn and how they use technology.

Research suggests that when technology and social media are used appropriately student engagement and overall learning are enhanced (Lvala & Gachago, 2012). Due to such findings, researchers and educators have questioned how these findings can promote positive learning environments for students. Is technology friend or foe? The emergence of social media has also increased the rate of information exchange both socially and academically. It has grown more common for individuals to use social platforms to exchange knowledge and create safe spaces for self-expression. With social media becoming a highly used platform, educational uses have been deemed to show positive signs of academic engagement (Lvala & Gachago, 2012).

It is my belief that technology and social media are friends to the classroom. I encourage all readers to investigate the positive impact of social media and digital technology in the classroom. Also, we must understand the difference between educational technology and general digital technology. Social media is a common virtual space that most individuals understand, especially the youth.  If one can properly utilize the key elements of social media, students will become more engaged with course content. If you are a non-believer ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you uncomfortable using social media in your academic curriculum? If so, why?
  2. Have you been trained to use technology as an educator?
  3. Do you use social media in your personal life?
  4. Do you believe that social media and digital technology are a distraction? Why or why not?



Lvala, E., & Gachago, D. (2012). Social media for enhancing student engagement: The use of Facebook and blogs at a University of Technology. SAJHE , 26(1), 152-166.



Dwayne Bryant is a fourth-year doctoral student at Howard University studying School Psychology. His research interests are social media and digital technology. Most recently he gained experience in providing psychotherapy at a behavioral health clinic in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. This experience provided him with a sense of confidence in his field of study.  Over the last two years he has worked on research projected gear towards the advancement of women in STEM fields. He is currently working as an intern in the APA Public Interest Directorate on the issue of women and STEM. He has a passion for advocacy and fairness for all people. In the future, he plans to open a private practice and a learning and recreation center in his hometown of Oak City, NC.

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Racial and Ethnic Socialization (RES) Beyond the Curriculum


This is the third in a series of blog posts that the American Psychological Association (APA) will publish regarding racial/ethnic socialization practices, programs, and approaches. APA is putting together a clearinghouse of resources to help parents/caregivers to protect youth of color and themselves from the psychological damage of discrimination and racism. For more information regarding APA’s new initiative and to provide feedback as we continue to engage in this series, please visit: www.apa.org/pi/res.

This post is also featured in our recent “Back to School” blog post series.


By Chynere Best and Noelita Bowman (Doctoral Psychology Students, Howard University)


All parents have probably noticed that raising a child is not only the parent’s job. You are constantly getting input from other family members, friends and teachers. Children spend more than half their day in school so it is safe to say that the school system, and those who work in it, play a huge role in your child’s life. That means that answering tough questions on topics like race and ethnicity is a challenge that teachers will have to face.


Teachers, administrators, and other pertinent staff share the responsibility of educating our youth. In addition to teaching subjects like reading, math, and writing they also help to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students. Providing a safe environment includes being able to communicate about race effectively with students.


One way schools can address race and racial socialization is to embed its concept throughout the curriculum and beyond. For example, teachers should work to highlight the ways in which culture impacts our everyday lives. Schools should ensure their curriculum is one that promotes cultural diversity, and inclusivity for all students from different backgrounds. School personnel should ask themselves:


“What can I do to empower my students to embrace diversity?

How can I create an environment that promotes an understanding that different does not mean deficit?

What message(s) am I intentionally or unintentionally sending to my students about race in my classroom?”


Culture at its core is our identity! It influences our values, beliefs, and worries. When schools provide an environment that allows students to discuss differences and engage in perspective taking, they create a climate that is safe and nurturing for all to grow and learn.


In discussing RES outside of the curriculum, here are some sure ways that teachers can facilitate the conversation about RES in school.




1. Debate:


Debating has long been known to have numerous beneficial outcomes. However, if not initiated and facilitated effectively this exercise can lead to negative outcomes to include divisiveness and entrenched positions. It is critical to have well-trained school personnel lead these types of activities, as they would be more effective in recognizing the different nuances concerning debates. Using debating as an activity in the school is intended to open student’s minds regarding RES.


Effective debates enable participants to gain a broader perspective, promote critical thinking and analysis, and teach research, organization and presentation skills as students must consider all angles of the situation or topic as they build their argument. Furthermore, it encourages teamwork and respect since students must work together to build their case, eloquently express their views and politely consider and refute their opponent’s position.


The school can carry out the debate in various ways. The typical pro versus con positions can be given to discuss topics such as the integration of racially segregated schools in the United States. Past versus present situations can also be incorporated to help students find the connection between their history lessons and present-day situations.


An example of this type of scenario would be “Would Malcolm X have won the presidential election if he ran against President Obama?” Additionally, a multigroup question can be posed. In this case students would be divided into 3-5 groups, each tasked with a different perspective on a prompt. For example, language is a powerful tool used for direct and indirect communication. However, in most schools across the United States, very few languages are taught. A multigroup debate question that addresses language in schools could be “Which, if any, foreign languages should be taught in schools?” Teachers should present a wide range of languages for the groups to consider such as Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, Mandarin/Cantonese, and Yoruba.”


2. Multicultural Events and Activities:


Acknowledging racial and ethnic differences can be even more fun and enlightening if we turn it into a celebration. Every culture has their own special holidays which hold varying types of significance whether religious, like the Muslim celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, traditional like the Chinese New Year or historical like Black History Month. One way to achieve this is to incorporate various cultural holidays and celebrations into the school calendar. Students can be a part of this process by suggesting celebrations native to their cultural backgrounds to be included on the calendar. Each group should not be confined to one major holiday or event such as Black History Month. All events should be supervised by a teacher or administrator to ensure that the focus is on appreciation of the specific culture being celebrated.


3. Discussion:


Sometimes addressing issues does not have to be wrapped up in a big event, project or assignment. Oftentimes the teachable moments that occur naturally are the best way to send a powerful message. Teachers should be aware of events that occur in school and society and be willing to address them openly with students. Addressing issues can be as simple as throwing out a question or topic for a student led discussion during lunch or a free period. The goal of these types of activities is to open the door for students to learn about current issues, express their opinions and have more open dialogue with their teachers and peers. Some examples of discussion topics include conversations around hair, skin color and racial stereotypes. It is important to note that someone should be appointed as a moderator for the discussion to ensure that no one person monopolizes the conversation and a level of respect is upheld as people express their views.


Ultimately, the purpose of these suggested activities is to help teachers get more actively involved in RES and to help students be more engaged as they learn about race and ethnicity. Teachers and administrators must be properly trained to carry out the above activities in order for them to be successful. This means being aware of the issues that occur in school and in society, being confident about your ability to address the issues head on and being dedicated to doing so in a way that unites, educates and builds appreciation for others among your students.




Chynere Best is a doctoral student in the Developmental Psychology Program at Howard University. She serves as the lab coordinator for the Cultural Socialization Lab (CSL), under the supervision of Dr. Debra Roberts, where the research focuses on culture as a buffer to the negative influences of toxic environments. Chynere’s specific research interests concentrate on culture and identity development in adolescents and young adults of African descent. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago.


Noelita Bowman is pursuing a PhD in school psychology at Howard University. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from Hampton University, where she was a summa cum laude graduate. Noelita has interned in several of APA’s offices including the Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs in Summer 2017. Noelita’s research and interests include exploring ways to improve the academic achievement and school readiness achievement amongst children of color. Her dissertation focuses on exploring parent and teacher attitudes on school readiness. She believes all children have the capacity to learn, it is the environment in which they function in that alters development in a positive or negative direction.


Image source: iStockPhoto.com

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: academic achievement, back to school, culture, Education, race relations, racial and ethnic socialization, racial identity, racism

The Hidden Population of Caregiving Youth in Our Schools



It’s that time of year again – back to school! Follow along with our newest blog series on prepping your young ones for the new school year. Most posts will focus on issues affecting children (K-12) and eventually college-age youth.

By Ann Farone, EdD; Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD; & Carol D. Goodheart, EdD


As students around the country are excitedly gathering their backpacks and school supplies in anticipation of the new school year, there is another group of students who are more worried than excited…worried about the family member(s) they are caring for…”What if something happens when I am at school?”  “What if people at school find out what I do…will they take me away from my family?”


These are not carefree days for caregiving youth.


The National Alliance for Caregiving research (2005) on this population estimated there are over 1.3 million youth, ages 8-18 years, who are sacrificing their education, health, well-being and childhood by providing care for an ill, injured, elderly or disabled family member. It might be a parent, sibling, grandparent or even great-grandparent or other relative in today’s extended families.  Frequently these students are assisting more than one person.  Their responsibilities include administration of medications, transferring, bathing, toileting, cooking, translating at doctor’s visits, and anything else that an adult caregiver might do.


Yet, they are still children – developing, maturing and trying to figure out life and their futures.


“Why me?” some ask. Most do not identify themselves as “caregivers.”


A child’s job is to learn. With the challenges of academic success compounded by adult-sized caregiving tasks, how do these youth manage and cope?


They often feel isolated and alone. “Who else does this?” they wonder.  Feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety and depression are typical and normal responses to tough circumstances.


What can be done?


A Model Program


In the U.S. the first comprehensive program to address the challenges faced by these children began in Palm Beach County, FL in 2006. At the time, many were skeptical. However, in partnership with schools, the Caregiving Youth Project (CYP) of the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY) began.  Youth caregivers and their families were no longer alone – others understood and would help to support their challenges.


School staff began to look at the back stories of children who had frequent absences or acted out in school. They learned that before school one student made sure her mom got off to dialysis safely.  A boy was having trouble staying awake in class. Why? He was up during the night settling down his mentally ill mother.  Furthermore, financially insecure families often do not have computers or internet access for homework help.  If the sole parent is ill, who helps with school projects, buys the supplies or advocates on their child’s behalf?  Lack of participation in school meetings may be misinterpreted as disinterest in the child’s well-being.


Interventions – The CYP has developed specific prioritized support services for student-caregivers:

  • They are identified through a screening process in grade six.
  • The CYP professional team provides Skills Building groups from 6th grade through high school.
  • Lunch and Learn sessions educate about illnesses common to care receivers such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and autism.
  • CYP staff participates in School Based Team meetings, working with school counselors to identify student issues and collectively strategize solutions.
  • The home visit results in linkages to resources to strengthen families and reduce stress on youth.
  • Sponsored activities, including an overnight camp, provide caregiving youth time to bond with each other and experience childhood fun.


Our Changing Society

Not everyone agrees that a child should be in the role of a family caregiver. However, changes in family composition and healthcare delivery impacts children:

  • There are more single parent as well as multi-generation households.
  • Complex care, formerly delivered in medical facilities, is now done at home.
  • Managed care programs have decreased home care support.
  • More grandparents are raising grandchildren with little consideration for illness or disability affecting that family unit.


Particular Risks for Caregiving Youth

We must face the realities of youth caregivers’ lives, recognize their valiant work, and strive to reduce their worries so they can focus on learning.


Risk of invisibility – Few people are aware that the numbers of youth caregivers far exceeds those in the foster care system. They face the risks for school drop-out, depression, anxiety, physical injury, trauma, abuse, grief, loss of normal developmental and social activities.


Risk of not meeting school expectations – signs of caregiving may include tardiness, absences, incomplete assignments, non-participation in school events, distraction or inability to focus, lethargy, unkempt appearance, and being isolated, anxious or bullied.


Risk of school dropout – the Civic Enterprises Silent Epidemic (2006) reported that among young adults who had dropped out of school, 22% said it was to care for a family member.  Others reported dropping out for financial reasons.  Did these young people have to go to work because mom or dad was no longer able to work?


Risk of exposure – Families may fear that if others knew their child was providing significant care, the child would be removed from the home. They do not know about possible resources to support their family.


Risk of role “blindness” – Parents may not be aware of the anxiety that family illness creates. The child, realizing how overwhelmed the family already is, may not share his/her own feelings or concerns.  Also, when an adult in the home is employed, the adult may not fully appreciate all the caregiving the child is doing when the parent is not home.  “But, I’m the caregiver” a parent said until asked if her son gave medications or assisted with feedings; then the mom realized that he too was providing care.


All caregivers within a family deserve recognition and support!


Educators, counselors, school nurses, psychologists and others can help by identifying and then supporting a caregiving student.




American Psychological Association, Connecting with Caregivers:  http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/consumers/index.aspx

American Association of Caregiving Youth: www.aacy.org or call 800-508-9618 or 561-391-7401 for direct assistance. The AACY website has suggestions and links that can help families, professionals and school-based staff to assist these vulnerable students.

View short videos of real caregiving youth as broadcast on national TV via the home page of www.aacy.org


Help caregiving youth to gain recognition and support by sharing this blog post.




Ann Farone, EdD, is the Director of Education Services at the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY). With over four decades of experience in the field of education, Dr. Farone began her career as a teacher in NYC. She has also been the Program Director for the NYS Department of Education, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School of Education & Human Services at St. John’s University, and as a Principal in NY & FL.

Connie Siskowski, RN, PhD, is founder of the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY). She was named as a Purpose Prize winner in 2009 and a top 10 CNN Hero in 2012. She went to nursing school at Johns Hopkins University and holds a PhD in Public Administration from Lynn University. She founded AACY in 2006.

Carole Goodheart, EdD, earned her doctorate in Counseling Psychology at Rutgers University and is a licensed psychologist practicing in Princeton, New Jersey. She was the 2010 President of the American Psychological Association. She is also a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, a Distinguished Practitioner in the National Academy of Psychology, a Registrant in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology, and the recipient of national and state Psychologist of the Year Awards from Psychologists in Independent Practice and from the New Jersey Psychological Association, as well as the recipient of the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Practice of Psychology.


Image source: iStockPhoto.com


Filed under: Aging, Children and Youth Tagged: academic problems, caregiving, caregiving youth, Education, school absences, stress

Is the Current Political Climate Hurting LGBTQ Youth? What Schools and Families Can Do


By Tyler Hatchel, MA (Counseling Psychology Doctoral Student, University of Florida, Espelage Lab)


How is the current sociopolitical climate impacting at-risk LGBTQ youth?


Although I believe that simply seeing or hearing about the diminished rights of diverse and oppressed folk is distressing for LGBTQ youth, Bandura’s seminal work on Social Learning Theory might suggest that the impact is more insidious. This theory posits that new behavior can be learned by simply watching and imitating others1. The likelihood of a new behavior occurring is potentially influenced by observed rewards or punishments (i.e., vicarious reinforcement).  It is then plausible that seeing aggression, discrimination, prejudice, and stigma being rewarded with monumental power could shape how all youth in the U.S. behave.


There is well established research showing that aggression in the sense of peer victimization and bullying is deleterious to the mental health of LGBTQ youth33,6,11,12,15,17. Although there are many different ways to frame aggression, Bandura (1973) has demonstrated that seeing aggressive behavior often predicts future aggression.  It follows then that the sociopolitical climate in the U. S. could predict more peer victimization directed at diverse youth like LGBTQ students.  However, there is not much school administrators and parents can do to easily change a nation’s political climate.  However, there are things one can do to change community or school climate.


What can schools do?


Create safe and supportive environments:



Accommodating the needs of LGBTQ youth are profound for improving school climate. School climate is vital when it comes to their well-being. Many studies have demonstrated that accepting and warm climates serve as protective factors whereas less accommodating climates have a negative impact on LGBTQ youth7,9,10,16.  Programs and policies play a large role in shaping school climate.


Use teachers and staff to reduce discrimination:



Teachers and staff are essential to creating welcoming environments for LGBTQ youth as well. If students hear prejudice from their teachers or do not observe an appreciation for diversity, then it is reasonable to posit that this would diminish the quality of climate and even predict student discrimination. I trust schools can protect their LGBTQ youth by hiring teachers and staff who are diverse themselves and allies for diverse youth. Watching role models be allies for LGBTQ youth could cultivate a sense of belonging for LGBTQ students.  I suspect some schools are not ready to remodel their entire staff.  If hiring is not a strategy available, training is another approach.  Cultivate an appreciation and understanding of diversity in your teachers.  Make it a point to incorporate LGBTQ-specific curriculum in your classes.


Foster school connectedness:



Feeling connected is another critical part of LGBTQ youth well-being4,5. Some research has suggested that peer victimization diminishes belonging which then predicts associated mental health issues like suicidality8. Although belonging and connectedness can be specific to an LGBTQ community, they do not have to be. LGBTQ youth can find belonging in theatre club or marching band if these programs are accepting or even appreciative of diversity.  I know I would feel connected to a band or club if the teacher was committed to social justice issues, an ally, and/or identified as LGBTQ.


But what can parents do, you ask?


You can be models for all youth by appreciating diversity in your homes and communities. Furthermore, you can advocate for the inclusion of anti-bullying programs, trans-inclusive policies, and other options like Gay Straight Alliances.  You can also push for the inclusion of diverse teachers/staff in your children’s schools.  Finally, please be an understanding and proud parent of your LGBTQ children as that is clearly another protective factor for LGBTQ youth13.


Essentials for LGBTQ youth well-being:


  • Less exposure to peer victimization
  • Warm and accommodating school climates
  • A sense of belonging and connectedness
  • Supportive families
  • Positive role models who appreciate diversity



LGBTQ youth are an incredibly important and valuable part of our society. Although these youth are clearly resilient, it is their right to be treated as equals by our schools, communities, and families.  This is especially true when dire sociopolitical climates are disheartening.


Resources for LGBTQ youth, parents, and schools:






1Bandura, A., (1971). Social learning theory. General Learning Corporation.

2Bandura, A. (1973). Aggression: A social learning analysis. Oxford, England: Prentice-Hall.

3Birkett, M., Espelage, D.L., & Koenig, B. (2009). LGB and questioning students in schools: The moderating effects of homophobic bullying and school climate on negative outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 989 – 1000. doi: 10.1007/s10964-008-9389-1

4Eisenberg, M. E., Neumark‐Sztainer, D., & Perry, C. L. (2003). Peer harassment, school connectedness, and academic achievement. Journal of School Health, 73, 311-316. doi: 10.1111/j.1746-1561.2003.tb06588.x

5Eisenberg, M. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2006). Suicidality among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth: The role of protective factors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 662-668. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2006.04.024

6Espelage, D. L., Merrin, G. J., & Hatchel, T. (2016). Peer Victimization and Dating Violence Among LGBTQ Youth: The Impact of School Violence and Crime on Mental Health Outcomes. Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 1-18. doi: 10.1177/1541204016680408

7Goodenow, C., Szalacha, L., & Westheimer, K. (2006). School support groups, other school factors, and the safety of sexual minority adolescents. Psychology in the Schools, 43(5), 573-589. DOI: 10.1002/pits.20173

8 Hatchel, T., Espelage, D. L., & Huang, Y. (in press). Sexual harassment victimization, school belonging, and depressive symptoms among LGBTQ adolescents: Temporal insights. Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

9Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Birkett, M., Van Wagenen, A., & Meyer, I. H. (2014). Protective school climates and reduced risk for suicide ideation in sexual minority youths. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 279-286. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2013.301508

10Hatzenbuehler, M. L., & Keyes, K. M. (2013). Inclusive anti-bullying policies and reduced risk of suicide attempts in lesbian and gay youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53(1), S21-S26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.08.010

11 Huebner, D. M., Thoma, B. C., & Neilands, T. B. (2015). School victimization and substance use among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescents. Prevention Science, 16(5), 734-743. DOI: 10.1007/s11121-014-0507-x

12Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Bartkiewicz, M. J., Boesen, M. J., & Palmer, N. A. (2012). The 2011 national school climate survey. New York, NY: GLSEN.

13Poteat, V. P., Mereish, E. H., DiGiovanni, C. D., & Koenig, B. W. (2011). The effects of general and homophobic victimization on adolescents’ psychosocial and educational concerns: the importance of intersecting identities and parent support. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 597. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0025095

14Robinson, J.P., & Espelage, D.L. (2011). Inequities in educational and psychological outcomes between LGBTQ and straight students in middle and high school. Educational Researcher, 40, 315-330. doi: 10.3102/0013189X11422112

15 Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: school victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Developmental psychology, 46(6), 1580. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0020705

16Ueno, K. (2005). Sexual orientation and psychological distress in adolescence: Examining interpersonal stressors and social support processes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 258-277.

17Ybarra, M. L., Mitchell, K. J., Kosciw, J. G., & Korchmaros, J. D. (2015). Understanding linkages between bullying and suicidal ideation in a national sample of LGB and heterosexual youth in the United States. Prevention Science, 16, 451-462. doi: 10.1007/s11121-014-0510-2




Tyler James Hatchel, MA is a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at the University of Florida, Department of Psychology. Tyler graduated from California State University, Los Angeles with a BA and MA in psychology. His research interests broadly include developmental psychology, prevention science, aggression, and mental health. He is particularly interested in examining the well-being of at risk and stigmatized youth. More specifically, he has completed a number of studies that explored the various risk and protective factors that shape the relations between peer victimization and poor outcomes for LGBTQ youth. He is also interested in digital media, suicidality, and tele-health. He is currently appointed as a research assistant for Dr. Espelage’s lab which focuses on understanding and preventing bullying, peer aggression, and sexual assault. Tyler has both been the recipient of a number of awards and published a few studies. He has worked with at The Trevor Project, with number of public school administrators, and served as a counselor at the University of Florida. He would like to become appointed as a professor and continue completing translational research that proves beneficial for at risk and stigmatized youth.

Filed under: Children and Youth, Human Rights and Social Justice, LGBT Issues Tagged: bullying, bullying prevention, Education, homophobia, LGBT allies, LGBT students, LGBT youth, politics, safe and supportive schools, safe schools, school climate, school connectedness, transphobia

We Need to Talk About How Race-Related Trauma Hurts Black and Brown Youth in Schools

School girl victim of violence

By Dawn Henderson, PhD (Associate Professor, North Carolina A&T State University) and Alexis Lunford (Research Assistant)

Witnessing or experiencing race-related trauma damages the psychological wellbeing of minority youth. African American, American Indian, and Latino youth not only encounter race-related trauma in their neighborhoods but also in school. Schools should be a safe space for all children, but some disturbing data prove otherwise.

  • The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reported African Americans and American Indians between 20 and 34 will more likely experience death from police than any other ethnic group. Just within the past two years, African American, American Indian, and Latino youth have witnessed, via social media or directly, police officers kill fathers— for example, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Allen Locke, and, more recently, Philando Castile.
  • Teachers, school personnel, and resource officers often enact violence against children of color. Hyman and Perone (1998) wrote about this understudied aspect of school violence more than fifteen years ago and while the CDC does not provide any indicator, a disturbing 2015 video captured a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC violently wrestling an African American female to the ground while other students numbly watched.

Minority youth not only witness or experience physical violence in school, they also deal with constant alienation, discrimination, and microaggressions. In our work with suspended youth, we have uncovered these encounters and are capturing them more intentionally through interviews with minority students.

  • Alienation manifests in our interviews with students like Natalie[1], a Latina, who mentioned, “I felt like I did not belong, like I wasn’t worth anything and didn’t mean anything.”
  • Discrimination—Teachers and school personnel discriminate against minority youth in discretionary discipline practices and recommendations for advanced courses. Racial discrimination can increase anxiety and depressive symptoms among youth (Chavous et al., 2008; Cogburn, Chavous, & Griffin, 2011).
  • Microaggressions (intentional or unintentional language and behavior that is derogatory or negative) are evident for students like Samantha, an African American female:

I was the only black child, well the only black female in the computer engineering science class. And the teacher wouldn’t help me, he kind of pushed me [to] the side and he’s always like you can figure it out. But then Billy needed help so he just raised his hand and the teacher would assist him. But when I raised my hand he would overlook [me].

When youth like Natalie and Samantha begin to internalize the belief “I wasn’t worth anything and I didn’t mean anything”, it is obviously a detriment to their mental health. While Natalie and Samantha survived and are in college now, the scars from feeling alienated, encountering discrimination, and emotional abuse in public school remain etched onto their psyche.

Unfortunately, a number of African American, American Indian, and Latino youth may not be able to survive the emotional assault; they will either lash out in aggressive or self-destructive ways or leave school completely. The National Center for Education Statistics reports African American and Latino youth between ages 16 through 24 have the highest high school dropout rates.


How do we counter race-related trauma and build resilient youth and schools?

In order to decrease race-related trauma among children of color we will need to target the context in which they spend much of their time—schools. We offer a three-pronged approach to how schools can provide a context for intervention.


  1. Adopt Stress Reduction Practices in Schools 


Stevenson (2008) wrote, “student-teacher relationships are stressful interactions that have the potential of being perceived as threats or challenges by both parties and that this primary appraisal is followed by a secondary appraisal of controllability or self-efficacy” (p. 356).

Adopting stress reduction practices, such as mindfulness, in schools to use with youth, teachers, and other school personnel can reduce tension and mitigate conflict. The work of the Holistic Life Foundation shows that mindfulness reduces stress-related behaviors by using meditative practices to improve attention, reduce stress, and increase self-regulation among adults and children. If we can identify ways to adopt stress reduction practices in school, we can reduce racial tensions.


  1. Support Advocacy through Youth –Adult Partnerships

Advocacy through youth-adult partnerships centers on improving community and civic engagement among youth. These partnerships can link youth to social support and provide opportunities for them to address racism and participate in decision-making in school. These types of activities can improve school engagement and build a number of skills for youth, such as social competence and self-efficacy (Zeldin, Christens, & Powers, 2013). In addition, training teachers and other supportive adults to model mindfulness in youth-adult partnerships only boosts the ways that youth manage stress and build resilience.


  1. Facilitate Truth and Reconciliation Groups

Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) are a restorative justice process used in global human rights violations. Modeling TRCs into smaller groups in schools can potentially bring together multiple stakeholders such as youth, teachers, parents and other community members to address racial disparities in schools and develop solutions. These groups may not only foster partnerships between youth and adults, they may also increase opportunities for parents and other community members to inform school practices. Androff (2012) indicates TRCs can target problems states fail to address because they rely on individuals impacted by the issue and foster collective action—such as redesigning discipline practices.

Reducing race-related trauma in public schools will require us to understand how it occurs and then identify ways to reduce stress, racial anxiety, and support the abilities of minority youth, their parents, and communities to drive decision-making in schools. This is a lofty goal but it can be accomplished if we work together to support youth of color and show them that they matter.



Androff, D. K. (2010). Truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs): An international human rights intervention and its connection to social work. British Journal of Social Work, 40, 1960–1977. doi: 10.1093./bjsw//bcp139

Chavous, T. M., Rivas-Drake, D., Smalls, C., Griffin, T., & Cogburn, C. (2008). Gender matters, too: The influences of school racial discrimination and racial identity on academic engagement outcomes among African American adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 44, 637–654. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.44.3.637

Cogburn, C. D., Chavous, T. M., & Griffin, T. M. (2011). School-based racial and gender discrimination among African American adolescents: Exploring gender variation in frequency and implications for adjustment. Race Social Problems, 3, 25–37.

Hyman, I. A., & Perone, D. C. (1998). The other side of school violence: Educator policies and practices that may contribute to student misbehavior. Journal of School Psychology, 36(1), 7-27.

Lanier, C., & Huff-Corzine, L. (2006). American Indian homicide A county-level analysis utilizing social disorganization theory. Homicide Studies, 10, 181–194.

National Center for Education Statistics. (2015). The condition of education 2015 (NCES 2015-144),Retrieved from the U. S. Department of Education website: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Stevenson, H. C. (2008). Fluttering around the racial tension of trust: Proximal approaches to suspended Black student-teacher relationships. School Psychology Review, 37, 354–359.

Zeldin, S., Christens, B. D., & Powers, J. L. (2013). The psychology and practice of youth-adult partnership: Bridging generations for youth development and community change. American Journal of Community Psychology, 51, 385–397. doi: 10.1007/s10464-012-9558-y



Dawn X. Henderson, PhD, is a Community Psychologist and member of Division 27 (Society for Community Research and Action) of the American Psychological Association and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research includes how trauma occurs in the public school system and interventions targeting economically disadvantaged ethnic minority youth. Alexis Lunsford is a Research Assistant and graduate of Winston-Salem State University. Any comments or feedback can be sent to [email protected].

[1] All names listed are pseudonyms assigned to protect the identity of the students.

Image source: iStockphoto.com

Filed under: Children and Youth, Culture, Ethnicity and Race Tagged: African American youth, American Indian youth, children's mental health, discrimination, Education, Hispanic youth, Latino youth, microaggressions, mindfulness, prejudice, race-related trauma, racism, resilience, school dropouts, stress, stress reduction, trauma