LI Herald: Molloy students mentor Latina teens

By Rebecca Melnitsky

Two of Molloy College's service programs, Mentoring Latinas and Energeia for Teens, have received a grant from Bank of America's Charitable Foundation Program for the eighth year in a row.

Launched spring 2006, the Mentoring Latinas program has Latina students at Molloy mentor Latina students from the Uniondale and Mineola school districts, encouraging them to graduate high school.

"We were actually contacted by a teacher from Mineola High School who read an article about a similar program at Fordham University," said Madeline Gunn, the director of Molloy's Office of Experiential Learning and administrator of Mentoring Latinas. "She called Molloy because we have various relationships with the Mineola school district."

The program's mentoring activities push students to prepare for college and plan for their future.

"Molloy does an excellent job in that capacity," said Bob Isaken, Long Island president for Bank of America.

The 2014 mentors and mentees of Mentoring Latinas. Courtesy Madeline GunnAccording to Molloy College's data, almost all of the high school students who were in the program in the 2012-13 school year improved academically and everyone moved up to the next grade - including seven seniors who graduated high school.

"The unsaid thing also is here are a group of high school girls - high school Latinas - who come in and meet a whole group of college Latinas: the nursing major, the speech pathology major, the future teacher, the future nurse," Gunn said. "And there's such power to that role model theory, where 'if she can do it, I can do it.'"

Mentors provide guidance as well as help with federal student aid applications, scholarships, SATs and applying to college. For some of these high school students, their parents work two or three jobs, leaving them little time to help their children plan their futures.

"I've been on that end," said Wendy Espinosa, a mentee turned mentor. "At that point I felt so overwhelmed - this is all new stuff. But then I had [my mentors] to help me, and now I'm on that side and I can help my girls."

Espinosa, 21, became a mentee in her junior year at Mineola High School. Mentoring Latinas was always publicized around Espinosa's school - but she was too busy volunteering with a different group in her freshman and sophomore years. In her junior year, one of her friends convinced her to come to a meeting.

"I ended up loving it," Espinosa said. "And her mentor was amazing - she was really full of life. And I told her I wanted to be part of it, so I joined."

Espinosa dropped some of her activities so she could join Mentoring Latinas.

"I regretted not joining freshman year because I always heard about it and my friends would always boast about it, but I never really thought I had the time," Espinosa said. "But then I made the time and it was two of the best years."

She fell in love with Molloy College as well.

"I only applied to Adelphi and Molloy," Espinosa said.

Espinosa is now a junior at Molloy with a major in Speech Language pathology and is thinking about minoring in Spanish.

"[Speech Pathology] has both science and you have to be a counselor to your patients," she said.

Over the past eight years, Mentoring Latinas has received $50,000 from Bank of America.

In its first year, Mentoring Latinas received $5,000. In subsequent years, it received $10,000. Starting in 2009, the money was split between Mentoring Latinas and Energeia for Teens.

According to Madeline Gunn, the Bank of America grants have helped with expenses for Mentoring Latinas, which have included hiring a program coordinator and trips to "culturally relevant, educational and fun venues." These trips have included El Museo del Barrio and the Broadway show "In the Heights."

When looking at grant applicants, Bank of America seeks programs that focus on housing, hunger and jobs. This year, 10 organizations on Long Island received $250,000 total in grants

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