“Although my parents had somewhat of an education, they couldn’t help me explore colleges,” said Erasme, 20, a Bronx native. “I basically had to get information on my own. I asked teachers, guidance counselors or anyone that could for help.”
Erasme serves as a volunteer with Mentoring Latinas precisely for that reason. She said she loves to offer guidance to middle and high school girls from her home city.
Run out of Fordham’s Graduate School of Social Service (GSS), Mentoring Latinas links at-risk middle and high school students with successful Latina college students.
In addition to spending time with their mentors on the Rose Hill campus once or twice a week, the Bronx middle and high schoolers participate in arts and cultural activities. The program is designed to give them experiences to broaden their horizons and prepare them for a college-bound life.
On Nov. 17, mentors and mentees from the program got a dose of inspiration from a Fordham professor who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and later, Yonkers, N.Y.
Norma Fuentes, Ph.D., assistant professor of Sociology, told the group of 40 girls how her grandmother in the Dominican Republic raised her while her mother was working in New York City. While her grandmother didn’t have a college education, she encouraged Fuentes to work hard to achieve her dreams.
“I tell my daughters to look in the mirror and not feel weird about looking different or having a name that sounds different,” Fuentes said. “I don’t think of myself as a Latina professor, per se, but I do feel privileged. And sometimes I do feel different.”
Fuentes-Mayorga discussed how she worked her way through Columbia University, where she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She lightly touched on her comparative research on the immigrant and work integration of first-generation Dominican and Mexican women in New York City, and the relationship between school and labor market integration between second-generation Dominican and Moroccan girls living in New York City and Amsterdam.
It was an opportunity to hear about how education leads to success from a person who looked just like them.
Fuentes-Mayorga told the girl to set their differences aside and focus on how being bilingual is a strength.
“You’re the cream of the crop, I can tell,” she said. “You are growing up in two cultures. You will take the best from your parents and the best of U.S. education to be the best.”