The Student Mentoring Program: An Effective Response to the Needs of Early Adolescent Latinas in the U.S.
The Latino population is growing faster than any other group in the U.S., and by 2050 will comprise 25% of the population. Adolescent Latinas are at especially high risk for dropping out of school, early pregnancy, and mental health and substance abuse problems. Research has shown that the ability to adapt to life in the U.S., while retaining one's cultural heritage, is essential for successful acculturation and may increase the chances for success in school. Mentoring programs have recently been shown to enhance adolescents' social and emotional competence, especially when the mentoring relationship is characterized by closeness and continuity. This paper describes a mentoring program that paired Latina college students with Latina young adolescents attending schools in the same community. The primary goals of the program were to enhance the girls' self-esteem, their sense of positive Latina identity, and their educational aspirations. Research has shown that achieving these goals can serve as protective factors to build resilience and mitigate negative outcomes. A pre-experimental evaluation (one group pre-post design) was conducted in the second year of the program. It tested three hypotheses: 1)girls' self-esteem is positively correlated with their positive commitment to their Latina identity, 2)girls' self-esteem will increase over the program year, and 3)girls' commitment to a positive Latina identity will strengthen over the program year. The sample consisted of 34 girls. Bivariate statistical tests (Chi Square, Pearson correlations, and paired t-tests) were used to analyze the data. The first hypothesis was partly supported. Self-esteem increased over the program year, as did the girls' use of the Spanish language, and their sense of belonging to their ethnic group. Higher self-esteem at post-test was associated with greater use of the Spanish language. In addition, a qualitative evaluation of girls' self-reports indicated that they regarded educational goals, personal development, and socialization as the most important aspects of the program. Future evaluations of this program are planned. Mentoring adolescent Latinas may hold promise for increasing resiliency and decreasing vulnerability.
Keywords: Adolescent, Latinas, Mentoring
Dr. Carol Kaplan
Associate Professor of Social Work, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University
Dr. Sandra Turner
Associate Professor of Social Work, Graduate School of Social Service, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Work