Meet Our Interns: This Claflin Senior Advocates for Therapy and Recovery For Adolescents

Written by: Gabe Fink

Nakhia Franks is on a mission to empower young women. Franks is a senior at Claflin University studying psychology and philosophy for a better understanding of the challenges and pressures young women face, and her career goal is to become a clinical psychologist working with adolescents.

“A lot of girls, especially Black girls, experience things that try to take away our self esteem,” Franks explains. “I have experienced trauma in my own life, and it caused me to really break myself down. So much of myself was created by other people so once I was sitting with myself, I was questioning who I was. I had to figure out how to love myself, regardless of what I had been through.”

Franks is bringing that point of view to work as an intern with CourseGateway in fall 2023, including her collaboration on a comprehensive research project on the strategies that HBCUs like Claflin use to support student success.

“After going through some of the meetings we had, I learned how valuable the experience was that I could learn about digital learning and how it’s changing the perspective of learning for individuals, especially for Black and Hispanic students,” Franks says.

Miss Senior

One of the unique opportunities Franks has undertaken at Claflin is a role as Miss Senior, an elected position in student government that serves as a connection between the student body and administration. Campaigning for Miss Senior after years of remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic was a challenge.

“I went from not being on campus my freshman year and my sophomore year and then being this new face on campus and trying to get the votes of people who didn’t even know me,” Franks says.

Her strategy? Connect with the student community in innovative ways. Alongside typical campaign fares like cupcakes and stickers, Franks gave out lip gloss and eyelashes to female students and hosted gym events for male students. Her unorthodox strategies paid off.

Inspired by her new position and looking for ways to return her good fortune to her community, Franks started a new campus organization called Raising Our Crowns. “It’s to help young women see and feel and be loved in many different ways,” she says.

Raising Our Crowns had sixty young women in attendance at its inaugural meeting. The group, which meets three times a week, offers different activities- everything from trust falls to yoga and meditation, all led by different students. The group offers a safe space for young women to explore healthy relationships and forms of self expression.

“It’s an open space for girls to be vulnerable and to feel their feelings and build their self esteem,” Franks says. “It’s a lot of self healing, self journaling. It’s just a beautiful experience.”

This collective is intended to give young women something Franks wished she had before: a rebuilding process.

Advocacy for Mental Health

For Franks, psychology is about the transformation of the mind through reshaping and reframing. 

“It’s a beautiful thing how a human can be in one state and then through therapy, through sitting down and talking about what has happened to them, can change them into a whole different person,” she explains.

As a champion for the transformative nature of therapy, Franks also passionately advocates for mental health, using her unique position as Miss Senior to do so.

“Having this role of Miss Senior gives you a voice. When you have a voice, you have a duty,” she says.

One avenue of how Franks bears this responsibility is through researching and raising awareness of the mental health issues that challenge her community. Her research proposal, Effective Treatment for Traumatic Experiences Among Minority Adolescents, seeks to raise academic awareness for minoritized communities.

“I wanted to figure out how we as mental health providers could give effective treatments that would help adolescents cope with the tragedy of trauma,” Franks explains.

The reconciliation of unresolved adolescent experiences is an important factor for growth, she states: “If we aren’t prepared to go into adulthood with self love, self esteem, and knowing who we are, then we are only our child self in an adult body. Learning these things about who we are and self love and loving others prepares us for the world. It prepares us for having children and fostering that same love and light into them.”

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