SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Body image. Racism. Hip hop. They all make an impact in how black women view themselves.

Doctor Ashley Payne of Missouri State University is a psychology professor who mentors young black girls, focusing on hip hop-based education.

“I look at identity development and how hip-hop influences identity development,” Payne said. “I also look at black and hip-hop feminism and how that can be used to understand the black experience, and particularly the black female, or the black woman experience within education.”

Dr. Payne says she works with a lot of teachers who are getting ready to go into the classroom. Her research focuses on infusing hip hop into education and curriculum.

Payne says it’s important for teachers to know and understand how different issues manifest for black women so they can create curriculum that helps them through that. She uses this knowledge to also direct a mentoring program where black college women are paired with black high school girls talk about different issues.

“There’s a lot of black girls in Springfield that don’t have a lot of people to look up to, they don’t have proper representation, and I think opening up that conversation for them is really beneficial, just because I know when I was younger I didn’t really have that person to look up to,” MSU graduate student Whitney Akalugwu said.

Payne says they’re getting ready to kick off the mentoring program again this year at Central High School.