Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Mentoring Latinas Program Making Strides at Three New York Colleges

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Mentoring Latinas Program Making Strides at Three New York Colleges

Article excerpt

Most educators recognize thai first-generation Latinas need role models. Because they face a number of economic and social pressures, many are considered at-risk students. Three colleges in the New York metropolitan area have introduced à program to provide mentors for Latinas.

Fordharn University launched Mentoring Latinas in 2003 to address die need of Latina middle and high school students. Ellen Silber, a professor of French literature and women's studies, began Mentoring Latinas at Marymount College, which was absorbed by Fordham in 2003. It has proved so successful that Westchester Community College in Valhalla, N.Y., and Molloy College in Rockville Center, Long island, established similar programs on their campuses.

Since its inception at Fordham, 145 Latina undergraduates have mentored 300 Latina students in Mentoring Latinas, at several middle schools and high schools in the Bronx and westchester, to inspire them to succeed in high school and prepare for college.

When Silber started a program at Marymonnt m which undergraduates mentored Westchester middle school students, she noticed that Laüna students faced particular issues in doing well academically, facing up to family pressures and graduating from high school or college. "Lato teenage girls do not have many role models. Very few of their parents have gone on to college. Why not pair a Launa college student who has surmounted the barriers and done the work academically with a younger Latina?" she said. She inaugurated Mentoring Latinas with the goal that the older Latina would exert positive influence on the younger student.

Recent surveys reveal that Latinas' major educational issues persist. An August 2009 report issued by the International Women's Law Center and die Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund revealed that 41 percent of Latinas haven't graduated from high school in a four-year time period, Silber says.

Why Latinas Are at Risk

Why did Silber focus on Latinas when Latino males also encounter problems in liigh school? Silber says mat she was a women's studies professor interested in gender issues. Moreover, she identified that Latinas faced particular conflicts that differ from those faced hy boys. "Latinas have to take care of younger siblings, do housework that prevents them from doing school work, and face a high pregnancy rate," she notes. Many are conditioned hy their parents to become homemakers, not forge careers or develop their intellectual capabilities.

Mentors Paid Modest fees

In the 201 1 - 1 2 Fordham semester at Mentoring Latinas, % middle school and high school Latinas in Bronx public schools, including Middle School 45, Belmont Preparatory High School and New World High School, were mentored by 18 Fordham Latina students, inosdy undergraduates, with a sprinkling of graduate students.

Sessions last from one hour to an hour and a half weekly. Mentors are paid $300 per semester and advise two students, often together. Mentors receive a six-hour training program on how to lead a session, develop a relationship and build trust. ''It's a crash course," crammed with information, Silber says.

Criteria for selecting mentors are based on character, not transcripts. Silber says she seeks students from any major who have experience working with adolescents, display empathy, and arc reliable and nonjudgmental.

Focus on Building Relationships

Rather than the mentors tutoring English or math, the sessions focus on developing rapport between the mentor and Latina student. "The center of the program is the relationship between mentor and mentee," Silber says. The goal is to have the high school student see the mentor as an older friend to look up to and trust and view as a role model. The mentor doesn't have to proselytize about the joys of college but leads by example.

Revolving everything around learning algebra or writing a paragraph would have altered the relationship. …

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