Kandra works closely with the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Department to support the continual assessment of the Resilient Scholars Program (RSP) across Urban Assembly Schools. This program aims to ensure effective implementation and sustainability of an SEL framework to empower students academically and developmentally. Kandra also provides research support for schools in measuring how effective they are with implementing SEL. Kandra’s passion for SEL, as demonstrated by her research and work with educators, comes from a desire to ensure that people have the capacity to live their best lives as their best selves.
Born in the Bahamas, Kandra knew from an early age that it was her life’s mission to advocate around social justice issues and for the wellness of people. After entering high school and observing some of her peers struggle in different areas of life like identity, relationships, substance use, sex and sexual identity, she realized that she wanted to advocate for the wellness of children and adolescents. Desiring to bring greater attention to wellness and communal care, Kandra invested considerable time as a high schooler promoting healthy conversation and care around wellness for young people.
She shares, “The stigma around conversation or engagement with certain content prevented healthy dialogue and in my opinion, as a result of lack of conversation, created some pain. So, my mission began to shift the culture of shame and stigma and has evolved to greater investment among Black and Brown communities to help children and youth be their best selves, beginning with the adults in their lives modeling what that looks like vulnerably.”
After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Latin American and Iberian Studies, Kandra pursued a Masters in Social Work at New York University (NYU). She is now pursuing a PhD in Social Work at Fordham University.
As a research practitioner, Kandra’s research looks at the ways in which we create environments where children and adolescents can develop into the best versions of themselves. Kandra believes that in order to empower students to do well, they must master SEL competencies like self-awareness, which she describes as important because it, “helps one to assess levels of self or soul care that is needed… puts one in a position to know what they may need to support personal growth.”
“Mental health specifically is a journey and looks differently, depending on the individual,” she shares. “It is relevant to all pillars in life to remain in flow- spiritual, family/relationships, physical/health, career/work/financial, are all affected by mental health.”
Kandra Knowles (center) with the Urban Assembly’s Social and Emotional Learning Team and Urban Assembly CEO, David Adams.
Kandra’s commitment to wellness extends beyond the Urban Assembly and her research. An advocate for student and adolescent wellness, Kandra helped organize a Boys Conference in her home country of the Bahamas and co-coordinated an art therapy workshop at the University of the Bahamas. She also planned a trip for a student group of 30 students from NYC to the Bahamas for cultural exchange in 2013 and teaches fitness classes in her spare time.
This month, we thank Kandra for her efforts to advance mental wellness through her work in schools and research.