Fordham Notes: Latina Mentoring Program Receives $50,000 Grant from AT&T

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Latina Mentoring Program Receives $50,000 Grant from AT&T

Mentoring Latinas, a support program for local Latina students, has received a $50,000 grant from AT&T.

The donation will enable the program, which is run by the Graduate School of Social Service, to expand its work in helping young Latinas face their unique challenges.

Since 2003, Mentoring Latinas has been linking at-risk middle school students with successful Latina college students. The collegians provide guidance and assistance, and inspire the girls to pursue higher education. With the AT&T grant, the program will extend its services to ninth and tenth graders, adding New World High School in the Bronx to its list of partner schools.

Ellen Silber, Ph.D., program director of Mentoring Latinas, said she is delighted to have received support in such a harsh financial climate.

She stressed the importance of nurturing the potential of this often overlooked population. “They don’t make any noise,” Silber said. “They just quietly drop out of school.”

Mentoring Latinas aims to fight the negative stereotypes of Latinas, which are internalized by girls and contribute to low self-esteem and a lack of belief in their abilities, she said.

Silber has seen substantial successes achieved by Mentoring Latinas, evident in the girls’ increased self-esteem and bicultural adjustment, she said. Participants interviewed in 2008 also expressed the changes they have experienced through the program.

“I participate more in class; I’m not shy to raise my hand. I’m doing better in school, in math,” one girl said.

“The program makes me want to go to college, be somebody in the future. It makes me believe it,” another said.

AT&T’s grant will help the Mentoring Latinas program impact high school students at a critical moment. Silber said, “In ninth and tenth grade, graduation is closer and the future is closer, so it’s quite urgent.”

Mentors introduce the girls to college campuses, familiarizing them with dorm rooms, libraries and college life in general. The program’s bilingual project administrator, a licensed clinical social worker, also engages parents in dialogues about raising bicultural daughters, understanding the school system and applying to college.

“Here’s a population with terrific creative and intellectual potential that is not getting the attention it needs,” Silber said. “This program is trying. We can’t do it all, but at least we’re trying to make a difference.”

—Nina Romeo

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