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M.A. Psychology Grad, Ph.D. Student Embraces Her Role Helping Girls Take Control of Their Sexual Health

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pictured is Leatra Tate, a graduate of the M.A. in clinical-community psychology program and Ph.D. in community engagement doctoral student. | Photo by Victoria A. Mikula

Meet Leatra Tate

Job title: Girl Talk Project Coordinator
EmployerPittsburgh AIDS Task Force
Degree pursuing: Ph.D. in community engagement 
Expected graduation: May 2018
Degrees earned: M.A. in clinical-community psychology, Point Park University, 2015, and B.S. in applied developmental psychology, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, 2013
Grad school activities: Professional mentor for Strong Women Strong Girls' Strong Leaders program, member of the National Black Graduate Student Association, Association for Women in Psychology and National Council of Negro Women, Inc., coordinator of Point Park's humanistic psychology mini-lecture series for local high schools and creator of a graduate peer mentoring program at Point Park
Scholarships from Point Park: Graduate assistantship for M.A. in clinical-community psychology program
Hometown: Erie, Pa.
High school: Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy
Now living in: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests: Teaching myself guitar, playing with my dog, sexual health and education, feminism, womanism, traveling as often as possible and constantly searching for the next conference to attend!
Facebook: PATF Girl Talk
Linkedln: Leatra Tate

"Point Park University has given me opportunities in many forms to grow as an individual and as a leader."

-- Leatra Tate



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How did you land your position with the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force?

I entered Point Park's clinical-community psychology master's program with a clear idea of what I wanted to do as my career: teen pregnancy prevention and sexual health education. Through the duration of my master's program, I was introduced to many different concepts and theories that helped shape and evolve my interests. Shortly after graduation, one of my colleagues, Chloe Detrick, informed me of the Girl Talk Project coordinator position with Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. Finding this position seemed serendipitous because it was such a perfect match for my career interests.

Through my master's program experiences, my interests had shifted from wanting to merely educate young women on sexual health to wanting to empower them to choose their own behavioral practices while providing them with the knowledge and resources to make informed and healthy choices. That is exactly what I am able to do in my position with PATF!

What are your key responsibilities as girl talk coordinator?

As the Girl Talk Project coordinator, I work primarily with young African-American women between the ages of 13 to 18 years old. I work with these young women to schedule parties during which we discuss everything from HIV/STD prevention and domestic violence (including the ways in which it is displayed in adolescent relationships) to information on puberty and reproductive health. These parties are aimed at empowering young women to take control of their sexual health and equipping them with the skills they need to make informed decisions regarding their sexuality.

Also, through PATF I have been trained to provide HIV testing and counseling as well as chlamydia and gonorrhea screenings. During my outreach events, I provide these services and I also work shifts in PATF's on-site clinic.

Pictured is Leatra Tate, M.A. clinical-community psychology alumna, Ph.D. in community engagement student and girl talk coordinator for Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. | Photo by Cait Barton
Tate presenting at a Girl Talk event in Pittsburgh

How have your M.A. psychology classes helped you in this role?

The clinical-community psychology master’s program at Point Park is heavily influenced by humanism, which focuses on the innate goodness and potential of human beings. This perspective really captures the way I approach my position and the way I approach the young women. Approaching them where they are in their life and in their sexual exploration is far more beneficial than attempting to talk down to them and force information on them.

I see myself as a sounding board for the young women; I draw awareness to risky behaviors they may be engaging in and work with them to provide them with information to decrease their sexual risk. I follow a type of harm reduction model, which I was first introduced to in the clinical-community psychology program.

During my time in the master's program I was introduced to an amazing and inspirational group of faculty members and students. I am so fortunate to have had the experiences I had in that program.

Why did you decide to return to Point Park for your Ph.D.?

Being a part of the inaugural class of the clinical-community psychology program, I felt a strong connection to my cohort. It gave me the freedom to explore my own passions and I strongly believe that had it not been for my cohort and the cohesion that we had as the first group, my experiences would have been vastly different.

Shortly after graduating this past May, I found out about the Ph.D. in community engagement program being unveiled. I knew community work was where my passion was and what I wanted to pursue so I decided to research the program a bit more. I asked a few of my professors from the clinical-community psychology program about it because they were very familiar with both my academic and career goals and I highly valued their opinion. I found out that these two professors played a major role in creating the community engagement program. At that point, I knew that this was exactly what I needed to be doing and it solidified my decision.

I have been exposed to so many wonderful perspectives and such a diverse group of people at Point Park University. I truly believe that the atmosphere and the quality of educators and students is what brought me back to this University.

What excites you the most about the Ph.D. program?

The first class my cohort had was a seminar course called Leadership, Communities and Engagement. Our very first day together consisted of volunteering with the Pittsburgh Food Bank's Produce to People Initiative, meeting with community leaders from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the LUMA Institute and collaboratively brainstorming various dissertation ideas. That first class showed me how hands-on and community-oriented this program was going to be — which is exactly what I had hoped for! My cohort is such a dynamic and diverse group. I am excited to see all of the wonderful things that my colleagues and I will be able to accomplish during the next three years together.

What are your career goals?

I would like to take the skills I have gained in both of my academic programs and transform them into the creation of a nonprofit organization focused on empowering youth and women to use their voices as change agents. Ultimately, my goal is to give back to my hometown in a way that is both beneficial and uplifting while building on its already existing strengths.

Final thoughts?

Point Park University has given me opportunities in many forms to grow as an individual and as a leader. The Ph.D. program, though we are just getting started, has already taught me to be appreciative of the experiences I have been given and to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead. I am so grateful for the professors, administration and students who I have encountered along the way in my journey as a student. Being in the first class of two of these graduate programs has truly taught me the value of being a Point Park University Pioneer.

Top photo by Victoria A. Mikula, junior mass communication major

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