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Up until high school, Ronald Love, Jr. expected to have a career in technology. But when his cousin was diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, Love started reading about the mental health industry more and noticed that something—or someone—was difficult to find: an African-American male psychologist. That made Love reevaluate his professional goals and pursue a career in mental health care. With financial assistance from the Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students (SDS) program, he’s ready to do just that.

“When we don’t see ourselves within an industry, it may make us wary,” Love says. “On top of that, I think it’s safe to say that the African-American population generally has a stigma about doctors and therapists. A lot of us don’t want to be looked at as ‘crazy’ or talk to a psychologist. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we turn toward the church, the pastor, or the family to seek help. Black men are less likely to go get a checkup unless it’s something severe. It comes from a lot of things, including our history.”

Using the Tuskegee experiment as an example of why African-Americans may have a valid concern for distrust of doctors, Love wants to do something to change that. But he realizes the only way to change that distrust is to start with the younger generation, who may be carrying on similar wariness from their parents, grandparents, and other loved ones.

Love has spent almost a year as a mental health extern for The Isaac Ray Center at Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, in addition to pursuing a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School. The SDS program funds underrepresented racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic populations with up to $30K per academic year in tuition, costs, and living expenses for full-time students. The funding comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Health Resources and Services Administration for students who will commit to training in primary care settings and serving in medically underserved communities after graduation.

“I heard about it through my department,” Love says. “Although I didn’t expect to get it, I took a leap of faith and applied. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was accepted into the award program.”

Love has already started developing a youth program, which will include interventions that are taught by TCSPP professor Dr. Jaleel Abdul-Adil, who is currently organizing a hip-hop youth class. Similar to music therapy, the course focuses on hip-hop lyrics and artists to communicate, write, and compare their current state of mind to other artists, either local or well known on a larger scale.

The Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity member also plans to use his experiences from earning a B.A. in Psychology from Clark Atlanta University, an M.A. in Psychology in Education from Teacher’s College at Columbia University, and his second M.A. in Clinical Psychology from TSCPP to work with high-school age youth on a larger scale.

“In order for mental health care problems to be fixed within the African-American society, I’d like to work directly with the youth,” Love says. “This is a way to give back to my community, provide an outlet and intervention to help adolescent black males in need, and add diversity to the clinical psychology field.”

For more information on Scholarship for Disadvantaged Students, visit here.

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