SisterMentors: Building the Dream for 15 YearsOctober 19, 2011
AAUW holds a special place in my heart. I received an American Fellowship during the last year of my pursuit of my doctorate, and I was awarded a Community Action Grant to help SisterMentors, the nonprofit program that I founded.
I started SisterMentors in 1997 because I wanted to be in the company of women of color working on their dissertations for their doctorates. I grew up in a small village in Trinidad and Tobago where people knew each other and cared about each other’s well-being. I also grew up in the company of women since I had three sisters, and their women friends visited often. So I knew the power of community and the power of women helping each other, and I wanted to recreate that community to help me complete the daunting dissertation.
About three years after SisterMentors began, the women started mentoring girls, and I began to make the connection between what had happened to me when I was a young girl. I went to the first school in my village when I was 8 years old. That school profoundly changed my life. It was there that I met a young teacher named Dora. Dora took me under her wing and pushed me to do all kinds of things I thought I couldn’t do, including participating in sports and singing in the choir. My self-confidence soared, and I began to excel in academics. Dora lit a fire under me, and I took off and never turned back.
Today, SisterMentors is on the road to its 15th anniversary next year, and we are kicking off the celebration with a breakfast fundraiser on Wednesday, November 9,2011 — SisterMentors Discovered: Building the Dream. I am very excited that SisterMentors has been around for so many years and am very grateful to AAUW for its support.
SisterMentors changes the lives of disadvantaged girls and women of color through mentoring, promoting education, and transforming communities. The organization mentors girls of color in elementary, middle, and high school who are from low-income families in the Washington, D.C., area. The girls are mentored by women of color doctoral students, whom SisterMentors helps to complete their dissertations.
SisterMentors has helped 18 girls to go to college and 40 women of color to earn their doctorates. Two of the young women we helped send to college graduated this May, including Megan Tuck, who graduated from Duke University. Tuck is the first in her immediate and extended family to graduate from college.
I invite AAUW members to come to our breakfast fundraiser on Wednesday, November 9, 2011, from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Conference Center in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of D.C. We will be premiering a short film on SisterMentors! Please RSVP to me by Friday, October 21, at 202/778-6424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to see you there!
This blog was written by 1993–94 American Fellow and 2001–02 Community Action Grantee Shireen Lewis.