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History of Mentoring Latinas

Dr. Ellen Silber founded Mentoring Latinas (known as Club Amigas by program participants) in 2003 to address the needs of young Latinas, members of the fastest growing population in the United States. Adolescent Latinas have significant possibilities for academic achievement and social growth; yet at present many are at high risk for school failure, mental health problems and substance abuse. Dr. Silber and her colleague, Jeanne Bodin, decided to work on these problems through a special mentoring program. Miriam Quilan, LSCW, joined the staff in 2008.

The program started in the fall of 2003 at Marymount College of Fordham University. Mentors were from Marymount and mentees from Sleepy Hollow Middle School in Tarrytown, New York. The first group consisted of 45 mentees and 18 mentors. The next year Eastview Middle School in White Plains contributed mentees. Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, New York, and Westchester Community College supplied mentors in the following years, and beginning in the spring of 2007, mentors from Fordham College at Rose Hill mentored students from the Thomas C. Giordano Middle School, MS 45, in the Bronx. With the closing of Marymount, Mentoring Latinas moved its office to Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in 2008 and became part of the Graduate School of Social Service's Institute for Women and Girls.

In 2009, the program expanded to include high school Latinas, and Fordham mentors served students at New World High School as well as at MS 45. A number of New World High School’s mentees were recent arrivals in the United States, a situation that presented its own unique challenges to the program. In 2014-2015, Fordham mentors from both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses continued to work with Latinas from Belmont Preparatory High School and Thomas C. Giordano Middle School.

In both middle and high school programs, mentors meet with their mentees on the Fordham Rose Hill Campus weekly from September through May, continuing the relationship in subsequent years where possible.

As a result of Dr. Silber’s publishing her work, two additional Mentoring Latinas programs have been established in the greater New York Area—at Westchester Community College (contact: Tere Wisell, Director of Admissions) and Molloy College on Long Island (contact: Maureen Carey, Professor of Social Work). The program has also spread west. After learning about the program from the internet, Don Fryberger, a senior at Brigham Young University in Idaho, established a Mentoring Latinas group.

Two Graduate School of Social Service professors who worked to train the mentors for several years, published 3 scholarly papers describing the evaluation and success of the program in increasing positive attitudes toward school and sense of well-being, Turner and Kaplan, 2009, 2007.

What is the current outlook for Latinas in school?

  • 41% of Latina students do not graduate on time with a standard diploma.

  • One third of girls surveyed do not expect to achieve their educational goals.

  • Latinas have the highest  teen pregnancy and teen birth rates of any racial or ethnic group - almost twice the national average. Approximately 53% of Latinas give birth at least once before age 20.

  • Most Latinas lack an educational role model. Only one in ten Latino children has a parent who attended college; thus the need to connect them with positive role models and engage them in goal-setting. (Listening to Latinas: Barriers to High School Graduation. (2009). Washington, DC: National Women's Law Center & Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.)

  • The attempted suicide rate of Latinas at 17 is 150% higher than any other group of girls in the United States.