Insight News

Feb 13th

Peer mentoring works for girls of African descent

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brandie_hillAs we grow old we come to understand that it is our young people of today that have the possibility to make a better tomorrow.  During the 2008-2009 school year, WE WIN Institute partnered with Cooper High School in the Robbinsdale district to create a mentoring program called, “Women of Distinction,” for girls of African descent.  The great need for a partnership of this kind revolves around the fact that African American students have the fastest growing failure rate in the state of Minnesota with only 38 percent graduating from high school.  Minnesota has the worst graduation rate for African Americans in the country.   The purpose of the program is for junior and senior high school girls to mentor freshman and sophomores so that they will stay on track academically, socially and psychologically.

Many of today’s African American youth are dropping out of high school because of pregnancies, lack of family support and lack of encouragement by friends, as well as peer pressure.  The mentoring program moves on the premise that if we don’t help our children NOW,  who else will.

The 2008-09 school year was the first year of our mentoring program.  It was a real learning experience for all of us.  We learned a lot about what to do and things we wanted to do for year two of the program. This summer, dedicated mentors have been meeting together with the director of WE WIN Institute and looking at what worked in the program and what we want to see different for this fall.  We have really been tightening up the loose areas found in last year’s program.  We as mentors have pointed out key areas that need specific help in terms of providing the best support the mentees need.   We are also looking at the support we as mentors need. 

mentors_and_menteesEvery week we come together and have been developing curriculum, developing mentor friendly forms that will help us understand how our mentees are doing in their classes, how they are doing with coming to school, and how they are doing in terms of behavior.  We even talk with our mentees’ parents and let them know how their girls are doing at Cooper. We also are doing trust exercises with each other so that we can really trust and depend on each other so we can be more successful this school year.  We are using the Circle process which gives everyone a voice and helps us respect and care for each other.

We are also working on fundraising ideas for the program.  It seems like girls are not number one when it comes to money for programs that make us better.   We want this program and we are going to do everything we can to make it happen.  WE WIN Institute has worked hard to give us the freedom to make this program really work for us.  This is the first time that I have been able to actually do the planning and create what happens in a program.  I like having a voice.   WE WIN does not have the resources to keep the program going for the 2009-10 school year.  We will keep meeting and talking to people and hopefully get everything we need to have a successful program this school year.   

We have developed a lot of goals that we want to accomplish during the school year for our mentees, as well as goals for ourselves so that we too can be our best.  We want more adults to work with us this year.  We’re looking for adults who have strong math, science, writing and reading skills.  We refuse to believe that African American students can’t be successful in school.  We have and we will continue to prove this with our mentoring program.  I am an honor student at Cooper and I want all the mentees to be honor students, too.  With the help of WE WIN Institute and the support of the larger community, mentors will be part of the solutions for our young freshmen and sophomore sisters who are struggling in school.

We as mentors are determined that they will do everything in our power to get these young women to succeed in high school. 

The curriculum in our program is fantastic.  We are learning about so many Black women who have done great things.  We are helping our mentees with reading, writing, math, science, and history.  It is so important to know about ourselves as African Americans.  Like the saying goes, “You must know where you have been in order to know where you are going.”   The mentors have come to the conclusion that schools are not integrating enough of the African culture or any culture of people of color for students   to be culturally competent.  We have decided that we will look more into the depth of our Heroes and She roes who have showed excellence and who look like us.

The mentors of WE WIN Institute’s, “The Women of Distinction” at Cooper High School are more than ready to achieve excellence with their mentees and with ourselves.  We hope the program stays a part of Cooper High School for the many years and generations to come.


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