Scholar Stories: Keisha Bentley-Edwards

Wednesday, April 5, 2017
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

"From an early age, Keisha Bentley-Edwards recognized some of the injustices and inequities that face certain communities, particularly people of color and/or low-income communities. Although Keisha grew up in Santa Ana, CA in a working class neighborhood with gang violence, she was exposed to more resources than her peers, including a gifted and talented program. She contemplated why she was chosen over other students when she didn’t feel significantly smarter or harder working than them. Through these foundations, and a passion for helping people with their problems, Keisha began her collegiate career studying psychology at Howard University. She later, during her Masters at Columbia University, joined a research team focusing on children’s resilience and mental health in schools, as she drew a connection between that and her experiences growing up."

Validating and Improving Research for Representation

"Through her work, Keisha noticed there was a significant gap in research that acknowledged cultural strengths, as opposed to a deficit approach in researching African Americans. In other words, she believed that identifying and bolstering healthy support systems would lead to more positive health, social, and educational outcomes than solely focusing on risk factors.  Keisha also noticed that most research was not accessible to the broader population, particularly those who would benefit significantly from it (from practitioners to community members, etc.). She saw that some students were seen as “lost causes” by 10th grade – written off by the age of 15 by teachers, community leaders, and adults. She was saddened and enraged by youth being cast aside at such a young age, and thought about how she could change that situation."

"As Keisha deepened her studies, she realized the lack of attention focused on Black youth, especially in a culturally relevant way. She decided to focus her research on documenting, validating, and examining the experiences of Black youth involved in bullying, a group that is typically missing from the bullying discourse.  Through her explorations, Keisha learned that cultural influence and language were very important in accurately capturing the intricacies of bullying within Black communities, as well as teachers’ ability to identify when bullying has occurred for Black children. She notes that when we think about Black aggression and violence, people often conflate gang violence and bullying, but how each is executed is distinct, which means that interventions must be different to have an enduring and positive impact on physical and mental health outcomes."

Read the full article here