When Malik Henfield was a child in Brooklyn, N.Y., he attended a school made up entirely of black students and black teachers, and he did very well.

“The teachers were very strict and the students were very focused on their work for the most part,” he said. “There was no stigma attached to being smart. Doing well in school was the norm.”

But when he moved to South Carolina, he encountered a different academic environment. Little was expected of him, and for the first time, he saw students who weren’t engaged with their education and teachers who didn’t care about it.

“As a result of this experience, I’ve devoted my professional career to dispelling the myth that black boys are not smart,” said Henfield, a PDK Emerging Leader and an assistant professor in the counselor education and supervision program at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. “It is a dangerous misconception that, in my experience, is internalized by both students and those charged with educating them far too often.”

He has focused his research on black males who may be considered high-achieving or gifted.

“There is a lot to learn from those students who manage to do well in the same settings in which scores of black boys find it difficult to find success,” Henfield said. “Hopefully, more scholars will devote time to this topic and negative perceptions of black boys, and blackness for that matter, will begin to change.”

His interest in forming friendships with people who share mutual interests led him to join PLT.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to build and strengthen my connections with educators who are also interested in contributing answers to some of our most difficult educational issues,” he said.

He’s working on several projects focused on exploring the connections between racial identity, masculinity, and academic achievement among black boys in K-12 educational settings.

“I’d like to eventually develop a student profile that may aid in successfully recruiting and retaining black males in gifted and advanced courses,” Henfield said.


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