Denyelle Baete Kenyon, PhD, Lab
Primary Research Focus
Dr. Kenyon has conducted the American Indian Youth Photovoice Project with high school youth and college freshmen, and is focused on increasing educational attainment by providing American Indian undergraduate students with research experiences through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience. A main focus of her current work is on teen pregnancy/STI prevention and adulthood preparation for American Indian youth. She is also the Program Director for the Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health, the aim of which is to build tribal infrastructure to conduct research and increase research on social determinants of health among American Indians in ND, SD, and MN. Her research interests include adolescent health/development, health disparities, transition to adulthood, and applied developmental science (prevention, intervention, evaluation).
As a researcher who studies adolescent health, development, and parent-adolescent relationships, I strongly believe in the rights and value of teenagers to our society. It is our responsibility to help prepare adolescents for the transition to adulthood by facilitating their development of self-efficacy and a broad range of skills to become healthy adults. Specifically, I study adolescent health and well-being, with the goal to reduce health disparities for American Indian youth and families.
We utilize Community Based Participatory Research methods to collaborate and partner with American Indian communities. We also use a Positive Youth Development framework which details that youth have special capabilities for learning, interacting, and contributing to the world around them. A main key to unlocking these special attributes is community support and resources. A particularly important tenet of the youth development framework is the focus on listening to the voices of youth, and giving them the power to make choices and drive the programs and activities adults want to get them involved in. Supporting youths’ voices and opinions further grows their autonomy, decision making abilities, and skills for leadership. Building these qualities through education and programs is important to shaping successful adults.
Adolescent Reproductive Health
One critical component of a healthy transition to adulthood is adolescent reproductive health. Our research aims to understand the context of Northern Plains American Indian teen pregnancy and transmission of sexually transmitted infections in adolescent/young adult populations. With one project we have developed “My Journey”, a culturally-sensitive teen pregnancy prevention program for reservation and urban Northern Plains American Indian teens. With another project, we are evaluating “Draw the Line/Respect the Line”, an existing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program in 3 tribal communities in SD, NE, and IA.
Summer Undergraduate Research Experience
Through the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), American Indian undergraduates receive hands-on research experience and mentoring in a cross-disciplinary training program (biomedical or social/behavioral research). Faculty mentors are drawn from experienced researchers at Sanford Research, University of South Dakota, and Veteran’s Affairs. In the evaluation of SURE, we have found that the interns’ significantly increased their topic area knowledge, research skills, critical thinking skills, and intellectual development (p <.05). We have also found the mentor relationship is important for predicting interns’ broad research skills at the end of the summer.
Our team also works with programs to evaluate their services through activities such as streamlining data collection methods. We are currently partnering with Volunteers of America, Dakotas on Homeless Youth Street Outreach, Basic Center program, and Relationship University, as well as Sinte Gleska University on their mental health and suicide prevention programming.