With a height of 6’5″, it’s difficult for this Loyola High School sophomore to go anywhere without being asked if he plays basketball, but there’s a lot more to his game than that.
Owen Kirk, a student-athlete, will be studying Experimental Psychology at Oxford University in London this summer. Owen, a South LA native, wants to focus on Black male youth’s mental health and welfare.
Owen Kirk, inspired by psychotherapists such as Dr. Fredrick Edo, a former NCAA Division One collegiate (basketball) athlete, said “I have learned to be comfortable expressing my feelings and making mental health a priority. Knowing that there are very few Black male psychotherapists encouraged me to expand my education so I can make an impact within my community.”
According to Zippia, just 4% of therapists in America are Black.
Dealing with all of the instances involving Black male safety and justice, particularly during the pandemic, a large number of young Black males were impacted. Last summer, Owen helped alongside Derek Richardson, the founder and NBA basketball referee of the Why Can’t We Make A Difference Foundation. Through academic and social enrichment activities in impoverished regions of Los Angeles, California, the organization raises elementary school children’s academic and emotional engagement in school. Owen served as a mentor to many of the young Black boys in the program, and he plans to return this summer to continue his volunteer work.
Owen founded Youth Feel in conjunction with his research to help his community’s growing youth mental health issues. The organization’s first purpose is to teach young boys how to communicate their emotions, develop emotional intelligence, and realize their own unique abilities. “We will do this through sports and games, using techniques from game therapy, to learn how to better recognize and express our feelings,” Kirk explains.