Uplifting BIPOC-Centered Mental Health Research With the 2024 Emerging Scholars

Active Minds
Active Minds

Active Minds is proud to introduce our 2024 Emerging Scholars Fellows! The Emerging Scholar Fellowship, generously supported by the Scattergood Foundation for Behavioral Health and Macy’s, is a unique opportunity for students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or Persons of Color (BIPOC) to work on their own groundbreaking mental health-related independent research. Active Minds is excited to be able to facilitate change by supporting our fellows through funding, mentorship, and amplification. 

This year, we have chosen the following fellows with projects ranging from unpacking the barriers and obstacles Black, African, and Caribbean-American men face when disclosing or seeking treatment for their mental health to enhancing accessibility and utilization of mental health resources for Asian students at Princeton. Learn more about our 2024 Emerging Scholars and their incredible research:

2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Denisse AguilarDenisse Aguilar Michel 

Mental Health of College Students: Lasting Impact of Covid-19

Denisse Aguilar is a first-generation immigrant and undergraduate student at Goshen College, double majoring in psychology and sociology with a concentration in women’s studies. Denisse is a research assistant at The William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families in Notre Dame, IN. Her current project aims to summarize existing evidence on mental health issues among BIPOC college students during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to create mental health education materials. She uses an intersectionality framework to develop a nuanced understanding of BIPOC experiences relating to the coronavirus pandemic.


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Mandy BrooksMandy Brooks 

Art for All 

Mandy Brooks is a senior at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, TX, majoring in psychology. After graduation, she plans to obtain her master’s in art therapy and open a practice that will also be a studio space for local artists. She is grateful for the future opportunity to do two things she loves: create art and help others. Her “Art for All” project will educate and show how art can be inclusive, accessible, and therapeutic. It is the belief that mental health is a vital aspect of living a healthy life, and in Black communities, the self-expression of art is within us.


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, MayaSunshine CustodioMayaSunshine Custodio 

Fill Your Own Cup

MayaSunshine Custodio is a graduate student obtaining her Master of Science in nursing at Samuel Merritt University. In her undergraduate career, she majored in Health Sciences and Gerontology, where she discovered her passion for the holistic approach to health. During her internship at the Cardiovascular Wellness Center, she recognized the relationship between mental, physical, and emotional health. With her fellowship with Active Minds, Maya’s project explores the mental health of healthcare students, specifically the APIDA community. “Fill Your Own Cup” emphasizes the importance of replenishing yourself so that you can take care of others. Her goal is to incorporate various dimensions of medicine to promote wellness for upcoming healthcare providers.


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Tiffanie-ChengsTiffanie Cheng 

Breaking Barriers: Debunking Mental Health Stigma with API Students in Elite Academia

Tiffanie Cheng is a senior at Princeton University studying psychology and East Asian studies. She is a first-generation Chinese immigrant, and she hopes to become a representative in helping destigmatize and bridge the gap between mental health and the Asian community. Tiffanie’s project investigates the landscape of mental health among Asian students at Princeton and advocates for programming and policy changes to enhance accessibility and utilization of mental health resources for Asian students on campus. 


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Rincon JagarlamudiRincon Jagarlamudi

Express Yourself: Nurturing Neurodiverse Minds Through Creative Expression

Rincon Jagarlamudi is a third-year undergraduate student at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. He is majoring in biochemistry with minors in medicine, health, and society and data science. Rincon is dedicated to combining his background in advocating for neurodiverse individuals with his interests in mental health and well-being. His project will introduce the therapeutic benefits of artistic expression to students in Vanderbilt’s inclusive higher education program for neurodiverse individuals. 


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Jodi JohnsonJodi Johnson 

Brother, You’re Not Alone

Jodi C. Johnson is a first-generation undergraduate student completing his final year at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, pursuing a degree in psychology and biology. Jodi is interested in focusing on mental health from a holistic approach and intentionally engaging with men of color in his community. His project “Brother, You’re Not Alone” will explore what barriers and obstacles Black, African, and Caribbean-American men face when disclosing or seeking treatment for their mental health conditions or symptoms. Jodi plans to expose and address the mental health stigmas surrounding men of color to diminish them and create a united community where men of color can define themselves. 


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Jade KillikellyJade Killikelly 

The Grind Within the Grind: The Additional Challenges of Being an Athlete of Color in a Predominantly White College

Jade A. Killikelly is in her final year at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, pursuing a degree in public health with a pre-medical focus. Her project will focus on the mental health of student-athletes, specifically student-athletes of color in a predominantly white institution, and how to support this group as they perform both on the court or field and in the classroom. As captain of the women’s tennis team, president of the Black Student Union, and a Peer Health Educator, Jade can combine her passions for sports and fitness, health and wellness, and mental health.


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Kristiana KnappKristiana Knapp 

Future for Fosters 

Kristiana Knapp (she/they) is a first-year graduate student pursuing a Master’s in social work at Clark Atlanta University. They earned their B.S. in psychology from Howard University. Her project, “Futures For Fosters,” will explore the needs of foster youths transitioning out of the child welfare system and how to reduce their high likelihood of poor life outcomes such as mental health challenges. Kristiana hopes to design a program that utilizes holistic and multidisciplinary approaches to empower, validate, and support marginalized youths embarking on adulthood.


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Kaevyn MapleKaevyn Maple 

Witnessing Blackness: Correlations of Mental Health and Black Violence in the Media

Kaevyn is a doctoral student in the clinical psychology program at Saint Louis University. She has also completed a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and global studies at Texas Tech University and a Master of Science in clinical psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler, where she developed her enthusiasm for psychological research and clinical practice. Her research interest focuses on the lived experiences of Black individuals and communities. She is most passionate about understanding and quantifying Black people’s daily lives and struggles through the lens of systemic oppression, historical contexts, and generational or cultural trauma. Kaevyn aims to understand the long-term effects of slavery and civil rights on the Black community to inform the development of culturally sensitive evidenced-based practices and clinical assessments and provide statistical significance for policy change. 


2024 Emerging Scholar Headshot, Asli McCullersAsli McCullers 

Project HeartHEAL (Health, Equity, and Love)

Asli McCullers is a first-year Ph.D. student in behavioral and community health at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is an aspiring health equity researcher and leader passionate about interrupting the pathway to health inequity through the lens of adolescents and young adults of historically marginalized backgrounds. Asli possesses a dynamic array of research experiences, including mental health, reproductive health, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and digital health, with academic works published in world-class journals. As a fellow, Asli will expand Project HeartHEAL (Health Equity and Love), which seeks to understand, amplify, and address the health-related experiences of young adults of diverse backgrounds who have experienced challenging romantic breakups. Through this work, Asli is looking forward to coining love as a social determinant of health.


Emerging Scholar Headshot, Maryfer OrtizMaryfer Ortiz 

Bridging the Gap Between Immigrant Communities and Mental Health Support

Maryfer Ortiz is a third-year student at Portland State University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a minor in neuroscience. Her project will focus on discovering new ways to improve access and establish better relationships with the subjects surrounding mental health within immigrant communities, focusing on Latinx communities.


Emerging Scholar Headshot, Manu PerincheryManu Perinchery

Guardians of Hope: The Impact of Familial Social Support on Suicidal Ideation Among Asian College Students

Manu Perinchery is currently a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, pursuing a double major in neuroscience and teaching. His academic journey involves diving deeper into the intricate world of clinical neuroendocrinology as a research assistant and serving the Austin community as an EMT. Manu’s passion lies at the intersection of mental health and medicine, a field that captivates him and fuels his commitment to positively impacting healthcare. Manu is dedicated to expanding his knowledge, fostering a deeper understanding of the human mind, and contributing meaningfully to academic and healthcare communities. 


Emerging Scholar Headshot, Edward SunEdward Sun

Penn, I Screwed Up

Edward is in an exciting new chapter in his academic journey as he embarks on his first year at the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School. With a lifelong commitment to service, Edward has created several mental health initiatives. As the past President of the Fort Wayne Mayor’s Youth Engagement Council, Edward represented over 17,500 high school students. Last year, he spearheaded a mental health symposium in his local city, fundraising over $12,000 and having over 200 students from 20 high schools attend the symposium. Currently, he serves as the Secretary of the Indiana Legislative Youth Advisory Council, where he is a strong advocate for youth mental health, is part of Mental Health America’s Youth Policy Accelerator, and is the sole youth advisor for Zephyr Impact, a nonprofit that grants money to mental health organizations around the country.


Emerging Scholar Headshot, Tamara WoodTamara Wood 

Undiagnosed to Under Arrest: Examining How Racial Disparities in Mental Health Diagnoses Among Black Children Contribute to the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Tamara Wood is a fourth-year undergraduate student at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC. Tamara’s passion for bringing awareness to the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon stems from her own experiences growing up in The Bronx and attending New York City public schools. Tamara’s project will explore how racial disparities in mental health diagnoses among Black children contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. With her research, she aims to understand how these disparities contribute to the overrepresentation of Black children in the criminal justice system. Tamara’s project will offer new ideas to help bridge the gap between school authorities, health professionals, Black parents, and their Black children, with the ultimate goal of reshaping policy in public school systems to better support Black youth across America.

Learn more about the fellowship, as well as our 2024 Emerging Scholars, here.