Studying Hope, Resilience, and Action in Black and Latinx Adolescent Girls


By: Leslie M. Booren

A Youth-Nex faculty and graduate student team landed two grants to support their research on critical consciousness and sociopolitical development among adolescent girls.

Taina Quiles, a doctoral student in the community psychology program at the University of Virginia, has been awarded two research grants to support her work with Black and Latinx adolescent girls.

With guidance from her advisor Seanna Leath, an assistant professor of psychology and a faculty affiliate at Youth-Nex, Quiles received funding from a racial and social justice mini-grant from the Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) and a Cultivating Healing, Advocacy, Nonviolence, Growth, and Equity (CHANGE) grant from the American Psychological Association Division 56 (APA).

YN article Seanna annd Taina.jpg“We are investigating how Black and Latinx adolescent girls navigate exposure to institutional violence and activism on social media,” said Quiles. “We also want to understand how that relates to their critical consciousness, sociopolitical and academic goal development.”

Critical consciousness is the ability to analyze systems that perpetuate inequality and take action against them, said Leath. Similarly, sociopolitical development is the process of developing the analytic and emotional skills to engage within the political system and take action against oppressive contexts.

“We hope to examine how these girls process both the institutional violence, like watching police or ICE brutality in their community, and the activism through movements like Black Lives Matter or La Raza Unida,” explained Quiles. “Black and Latinx girls often leverage their understanding of systemic oppression, family socialization and schooling experiences to process the events happening in the world around them and what they are seeing on their social media accounts.”

This work will also help to inform how Black and Latinx girls conceptualize their ability to change injustice in their community through civic engagement.

“Understanding how these girls are thinking about their ability to impact their community and their own academic careers is important for those of us who aim to support them,” said Quiles. “Given we are approaching this work by drawing from Black feminists and Mujerista [Latina Womanists] psychologists, we hope to use these findings to inform the ways adults support civic engagement and academic goals in the future by acknowledging the dreams and imagination these girls often bring to their own critical reflection and action.”

Overall, Quiles is interested in racial healing work, and specifically how Black and Latinx adolescents leverage protective factors to navigate inequities in the school system. She hopes to understand how these findings can apply to educational and social policy.

“Ultimately, we will be learning more about Black and Latinx girls’ aspirations, hopes and visions for their future,” said Quiles, “and the futures of those in their racial and ethnic community.”

Through this work, Quiles will be collaborating with youth in the Charlottesville area.

“We are grateful for the support from SCRA and APA to launch this important social and racial justice work,” said  Leath. “These early career funding opportunities are scarce but allow highly motivated and creative students like Taina to design and lead independent research projects on topics like hope and resilience among structurally marginalized communities.”

Quiles joins an elite group of scholars awarded these grants, including four others funded by SCRA and five others by APA. Other topics funded include “Surviving COVID-19: Risk and Resilience Factors for Black Adults” by Jasmin Books, a UVA SURP Program alumna.


Taina Quiles received her BS in psychology at Fordham University. She also has participated in the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs in Pittsburgh to learn more about community initiated social change.

Youth-Nex was founded in 2009 to expand and apply the science of positive youth development to address fundamental challenges facing societies around the world. Through science and community partnerships, Youth-Nex enhances the strengths of children and adolescents and prevents developmental risk. Our vision is that our nation’s youth - a rich, often untapped resource - may flourish.