Doctoral student leads cultural enrichment group at treatment facility

By: ISU Communications and Marketing Staff, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
April 26, 2011

Ke'Shana Griddine sits ramrod straight in her chair. When she speaks, it's with assurance. Her very presence commands people to pay attention.

When they get to know her, they come to discover she possesses pride for her African-American ethnicity and passion to empower young people to succeed and become all they can be.

She recently put her passions to work interning at Gibault, a juvenile residential treatment facility, and working with African-American girls. A resulting project became more than an internship.

Hailing from San Diego, Griddine received her bachelor's degree in psychology from Clark Atlanta University. She made the decision to come to Indiana State University for the opportunity to earn both her master's and doctorate through a five-year program.

Currently in her fourth year as a school psychology student at ISU, Griddine deliberately sought a diverse internship placement.

"I didn't want to be in a homogenous population," she said, "I enjoy working with the population that is at Gibault because it is more exciting. Every day is something new."

Her internship duties included working in the staff clinical department, where she began in August of 2009. She performed academic screenings and interventions, annual achievements and psychological evaluations, among other tasks.

"It's more of an advocate role," Griddine said, "I work with the students and do their assessments, but I'm advocating so they can have the best services while they're there."

But Griddine wasn't ready to be finished at Gibault when the internship concluded.

Instead, she asked to stay on staff and implement a new cultural enrichment program specifically designed for African-American girls called "Sisters of Nia." "Nia" is the Swahili word for "Purpose."

"It really tries to instill some type of purpose in the girls. It's a more empowering type of program," Griddine explained.

Griddine led two cycles of the 14-week program from January to December of 2010 after discovering the idea in a school psychology publication. Her work with Gibault concludes this spring, where she has returned to the staff clinical department for the remainder of the school year.

Her group consistently had eight or nine girls in attendance between the ages of 13 and 18, varying depending on the number of girls who entered Gibault and were discharged.

Griddine views "Sisters of Nia" as an encouraging sisterhood.

The program focuses on raising ethnic identity and self-esteem, identifying the negative images of women in the media and breaking out of stereotypes that society places on them.

Though the girls initially reacted with apprehension and questioning, they quickly warmed up to their new facilitator.

A group manual determined the session topics and included CDs and journals for the participants. One two-part lesson included brainstorming the images and stereotypes of Africa and determining where these images came from.

Though Griddine's co-led anger management groups and social skills programs, this was the first cultural enrichment program targeted towards African-American females that she's led.

"[I just want] to give them a sense of pride, like it's ok to not be ashamed of their culture, for one, [and] to feel like they can do something with their lives," Griddine said.

With plans to graduate in August of 2012, she hopes to use her school psychology degree to develop her passion for education and youth advocacy.

"I think it's important for African-American girls to know you have to have a positive self-image and this is what you're facing," Griddine said, "You're up against all of these things; you need to find purpose. So I feel like that part of the mentoring is important. Who else is going to do it?"

Interning and working for Gibault has done more than fulfill a degree requirement.

"[Being] able to relate to kids that have a feeling of hopelessness and instilling some type of hope has been amazing, but I don't want to seem like I'm superwoman. I've enjoyed it," she said.

The doctoral student realizes that her ambitions and strong personality type will not always be the most agreeable, as she is determined to speak up and fight for the educational rights of children.

"I plan on practicing as a school psych for a few years, possibly private practice stuff if I get somebody upset in the school system, which is bound to happen," Griddine said, laughing.

With lit-up eyes, Griddine described her ultimate goal: building a "huge" youth empowerment center, where parents could learn about their child's educational rights and kids would simply have a place to unwind.

"Big, big stuff," she said, smiling.

Through the experiences working with Gibault and "Sisters of Nia," Griddine feels confident in her career path and brings life to a simple, yet crucial, piece of advice.

"You have to be passionate about what you want to do."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-dfP8GZg/0/S/i-dfP8GZg-S.jpg

Contact: Ke'Shana Griddine, doctoral candidate in school psychology, Indiana State University, at Kgriddine@indstate.edu

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, at 812-237-3773