Molloy University student Katie Sandoval, left, is mentoring Roosevelt High...

Molloy University student Katie Sandoval, left, is mentoring Roosevelt High School 10th-grader Miyali Salguero as part of the Mentoring Latinas program. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Molloy University has resumed its youth development partnership with Long Island schools to help Latina high schoolers succeed academically and prepare for college.

The Mentoring Latinas program originated at Fordham University in the Bronx and was replicated by Molloy, in Rockville Centre, in 2006. Mentors — some of whom started off as mentees — connect with Latina students as they approach high school graduation and consider attending college or a vocational program.  

The goal is to prepare Latina students to transition from high school to university life with confidence, in an effort to bring down Latina high school dropout rates, said Sarah Shin, the director of the Office of Experiential Learning, which houses the program. Mentors show their charges what to expect in college, introducing them to different majors and university programs, while the admissions office teaches students about the application process.

“Really, the intention of the program is to build this relationship and mentorship and friendship between the mentors and mentees,” Shin said. 

The program, which was paused during the pandemic, resumed this academic year at Uniondale and Roosevelt high schools, where 20 Latina students connect with Molloy students, who serve as role models with similar cultural backgrounds. Once a week, they visit the campus to learn skills as they prepare for college, such as how to apply for financial aid, and to enhance their leadership skills. Molloy also hosts bilingual workshops with the girls’ families to engage them in the process. 

“Overall, the program has been a great way to communicate with other people outside my environment,” said Miyali Salguero, a 10th-grader at Roosevelt High School. 

The state education department reported in 2021 that 6% of Hispanic and Latino students dropped out of high school. A White House report published in 2015 reported that Latina high schoolers raised their high school graduation rate by more than 14 percentage points from 2003 to 2013. Still, more than one in five Latinas had not obtained a high school diploma by age 29, the report said. 

Salguero, 15, will be a first-generation college student, which she said she finds intimidating. Attending the weekly mentoring sessions on Molloy’s campus and connecting with mentors, several of whom are first-generation college students themselves, has boosted Salguero’s confidence that she can fit in academically. 

“The program makes me feel like there are people out there who do succeed,” Salguero said. “It gives me hope that I will succeed.” 

Wendy Espinosa, program coordinator for the experiential learning office, started off as a mentee when she was in high school. When she attended Molloy, she joined the program as a mentor. Now, she helps orchestrate the program for the next generation of Latinas.

“This program has a very special place in my heart,” she said, calling it a full-circle moment. 

Katheryn Collazo and Katie Sandoval, both Molloy students, understand the challenges first-generation college students face. Both women were the first in their families to attend college and understood the trepidation surrounding the process.

Collazo said she faced tremendous pressure to succeed and was eager to help others who were in her position.

“I am an alumna of Roosevelt, so I feel very proud that I can have my school participate in this program,” Sandoval said. “Being able to see these girls and speak to them about ... all of the things that I've been able to do after I graduated, it blows their minds. When you’re in high school, you don’t really see anything outside of that, so it’s a completely new world once you do graduate.”

Mentoring Latinas:

  • Molloy University in Rockville Centre started its Mentoring Latinas program in 2006 to help Latina students as they prepare for college.
  • The program is modeled after the one started at Fordham University in the Bronx. 
  • Mentoring Latinas aims to demystify the college process for first generation college students and arm them with the skills they need to succeed. 
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