A program developed in the fall of 2003 at the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service addresses the increasing school dropout rates among adolescent Latinas. Mentoring Latinas program is sponsored by The Institute for Women and Girls at The Fordham Graduate School of Social Service.
Mentoring Latinas, a program developed in the fall of 2003 at the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service by Ellen S. Silber Ph.D., aims to address the increasing school dropout rates among adolescent Latinas.
Dr. Silber holds a doctorate in French language and literature. In 2002, Silber was working on a leadership program for middle school girls when she discovered some troubling statistics on young Latinas. “Latinos are the fastest growing population in the country,” Silber said, “Latinas have the highest school dropout rate in the country yet they are an invisible population. You don’t read about Latinas in The New York Times or see them on television news. They struck me as much more needy of mentoring than girls at large.”
With the hope of turning this challenge into an opportunity, Silber developed this simple yet scalable program. Mentoring Latinas attempts to tackle the challenges that Adolescent Latinas face by.
· Creating an ongoing mentoring project—carefully screened Latina college students form relationships with Latinas in middle and high school, in the belief that college women are powerful role models and serve as examples of what adolescent girls aspire to
· Conducting meetings between mentors and mentees on a college campus—hoping to show Latina mentees that college can become a reality for them
· Forming discussions of parents led by a bilingual clinical social worker around key topics like: adjusting to American culture, raising bicultural daughters, understanding the school system and planning for higher education.
Twenty mentors from Fordham University and more than 40 mentees in middle and high school make up the current program. Mentors meet with their mentees once a week during the academic year. They introduce the girls to Fordham, familiarize them with dorm rooms and expose them to the libraries and to general aspects of college life.
Mentoring Latinas hopes to achieve very specific outcomes. For the mentees, improved academic performance, increased self-esteem and biculturalism are measured. Two professional evaluations have already indicated a significant rise in the self-esteem of those middle school Latinas participating in the program. In addition, an increase in biculturalism of participants has been shown and may correlate with better school performance. Some of the mentors report the personal benefit of a greater sense of responsibility through their participation in the program.
Dr. Silber is very proud of how far the program has come in such a short time and yet recognizes the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. She continues to do research on the population and to focus on raising funds for the program. To date, Mentoring Latinas has raised more than $350,000 from various sources including the Walmart Foundation and AT&T.
Dr. Silber credits some of the power of the program to its simplicity. Her goal is very clear: “to turn Mentoring Latinas into a national program.” Dr. Silber builds her motivation to grow the program every year by watching the mentors and mentees during the annual Diploma Ceremony, during which each mentor gives a Diploma to their mentees for completing the program and speaks about two good qualities of her mentees that she has learned about during their year of meeting together.
Mentoring Latinas program is sponsored by Institute for Women and Girls at the Fordham Graduate School of Social Service. Find out more about the Institute here.
For further information contact:
Ellen S. Silber PH.D., Director
540 East 191st Street
Bronx, NY 10458