Inspiring grads: Latrice Yates

Latrice Yates
Latrice Yates

During her first few weeks at UIC, Latrice Yates found the support she needed to thrive on campus from UIC’s Student Success Units, so she made it her mission to pay it forward by dedicating her time to helping others leave their mark on campus and achieve their goals.

“I loved every single moment at UIC, and I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that came my way,” said Yates, who graduates Dec. 10 from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology.

Yates grew up in Rockford, then moved to Carrollton, Texas, with her family in high school, but she set her sights on returning to Illinois for college.

“I missed Chicago a lot, and I wanted to do whatever it took to come back,” said Yates, who also is a member of the Honors College.

When she arrived on campus in the fall of 2019, Yates attended the African American Academic Network’s annual Black 2 School BBQ and met new friends and staff members, including Jeff Brown, AAAN director.

“AAAN was a resource for me from day one,” Yates said. “When I told Jeff Brown I was looking for a job, he actually went and introduced me to the different offices in SSB, and he helped me find my first job.”

“From his grace, I was able to find a lot of different opportunities, and I was able to feel more comfortable asking for help. Everybody in AAAN is willing to help. Their commitment to getting involved with the success of students early is a huge reason I was able to find the skills and opportunities to get involved.”

During her first semester, Yates also was looking for a writing tutor, so she reached out to the Academic Center for Excellence for help.

“ACE helped me by being a resource for all of the questions I had,” Yates said. “There were so many resources and organizations on campus, and I just didn’t know where to begin. They made it less complicated.”

Because these support units had set Yates up for success, she wanted to get involved with them and give back. She dedicated her time to becoming a peer success coach for ACE and a peer tutor for AAAN.

For AAAN, she assists students with their English and Spanish coursework.

“When we first start our tutoring sessions, I always ask how they’re doing, and we have a conversation about the things that they’re going through,” Yates said. “So even though the primary function is for academics, it’s also a support network to make sure that they’re doing OK mentally and emotionally as well.”

As a peer success coach with ACE, Yates mentors first-year and transfer students, providing outreach and education about campus resources, deadlines to remember, ways to get involved and more. She also hosts office hours so students can drop in to talk about their career goals, academic timelines or just find support from a familiar face.

“I love being a resource one can rely on because I think everyone should know all UIC has to offer,” she said.

The psychology department and AAAN also helped connect Yates with the Summer Research Opportunities Program, where she assisted UIC faculty members Geri Donenberg and Natasha Crooks in creating a program to encourage Black fathers to talk with their daughters, ages 13 to 18, about sexually transmitted infections.

“In the Black community, the father doesn’t think that it’s their role to have those conversations,” Yates said. “But really, we believe that they’re actually essential to having those conversations. We try to teach communication methods and make sure that they have those healthy relationships so that the daughter could, in turn, go to them for questions that they have about sexual health because they’re the best person to get it from, compared to going to their friends, who might not have the most accurate information.”

Her work with AAAN and the summer research program helped Yates determine the focus for her future research.

“UIC has prepared me for a future in psychology, and I’m very grateful for all the opportunities that allowed me to explore and see what was for me,” she said. “Working with an all-Black staff and an all-Black population has been my confirmation that I want to continue to cater to this population, but with emphasis on the mental health disparities.”

Yates is now applying to doctoral programs with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.

“I want to focus on Black girls specifically and implement mental health programs for this demographic because I feel like in that community, mental health doesn’t really get addressed,” Yates said. “I think it gets overlooked and I want to offer that support.”

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