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Student Voice

New York

Mentoring program pairs Latina students and strong role models

Mairelys Alberto, Pilar Larancuent, and Ana Banegas address a group of Latina students at a Mentoring Latinas panel discussion on Wednesday. As a young adult watching Univision in the Bronx, Ana Banegas — now a Fordham University graduate student — was galvanized by the "Orgullo Hispano" campaign. Banegas, who immigrated from Honduras when she was eight years old, told her mother that one day she would be worthy of Orgullo Hispano, or Hispanic Pride. Now, as a mentor through Fordham's Mentoring Latinas program, Banegas can pass that vision to city students who are not so different from herself at their age. Mentoring Latinas, founded in 2003, pays college students to build relationships with Latina girls in the Bronx, with the goal of empowering the young women and encouraging them to aim higher in school. In the last year, the city launched an initiative to help young Latino men find employment and perform better in school. Girls, who typically do better in school and are less likely to run into trouble with the law, aren't part of the initiative. But Latina girls need a helping hand, too. Mentoring Latinas cites statistics about Latinas' high birth rate — more than half of Latinas have at least one child before age 20 — and high rate of attempted suicide to explain why young women need positive role models and receptive ears. The mentors and mentees typically pair off on Wednesday afternoons, spending time bonding while walking through campus talking about their lives and futures. This week, they came together in a bright room on Fordham’s Rose Hill campus for a panel discussion featuring Banegas; Mairelys Alberto, the outreach programs coordinator at El Museo del Barrio; and Pilar Larancuent, a youth development coordinator at Graham Windham. The trio spoke to girls who attend Belmont Preparatory High School and M.S. 45 Thomas C. Giordano, their Fordham mentors, and Mentoring Latina sponsors — including representatives of AT&T, which partly funds the initiative through Aspire Grants.
New York

Anti-truancy initiative brings peer group mentoring to Marta Valle

Marta Valle High School seniors and freshmen participating in Peer Group Connection last week When Andy Rodriguez and Shanique Josephs told 15 Marta Valle High School freshmen last week that only half of all black and Hispanic students graduate from high school, the room grew quiet. “That means half of you guys probably won’t graduate — according to statistics," Josephs said. "How does that make you feel?" Rodriguez and Josephs were very much trying to teach the freshmen in front of them, but they are not teachers. They are two of 24 Marta Valle seniors participating in Peer Group Connection, a mentoring program run by the Princeton Center for Leadership Training. Used by more than 150 schools across the country, the program has so far been used in New York City only by elite private schools, such as Spence and Dalton. The program came to Marta Valle, the first city public school to adopt it, through Mayor Bloomberg's year-old Interagency Task Force on Truancy, Chronic Absenteeism and School Engagement. (Washington Irving High School will start using Peer Group Connection next semester.) “We’ve been doing this program for so long in elite private schools so we love being able to mirror that experience for students in more high-need communities,” said Margo Ross, PCLT’s senior director of development. While the range of schools have different needs — and adjust their mentoring curriculum accordingly — the essence of the model remains the same. PGC calls for select seniors to enroll in a full-year, credit-bearing course which meets daily and trains them to be peer leaders. The course is co-taught by two teachers who have gotten special training. Once a week the seniors visit freshmen advisories for an “outreach class” in which they lead activities and discussions about relevant topics such as graduation, goal-setting, and decision-making. Seniors get credits towards graduation and a sense of responsibility. Freshmen get peer role models and help making the tough transition into high school — something that experts say is essential to keep them from dropping out.
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