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Girls' Voices

Girls’ Voices is a collaborative research project involving San Diego State University in a multi-tiered community- and university-based mentorship and a Young Women’s Studies Club (YWSC) at Hoover High School in San Diego, California. Since its inception 15 years ago, the club has met weekly to address the life circumstances and coming-of-age issues faced by its members. From 35 to 45 students (95% female) attend. They are a diverse population representing lower-socioeconomic status young women of color, including immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and Asia (for whom English is not the first language), as well as African American and other American-born students.

The project is based on a decade of conversations, dialogues, student essays, poems, ’zines, and visual projects. At semester’s end, in one-on-one oral histories, the girls reflect on their family roles; ethnic and racial identities; support networks, educational goals, and non-school activities; and the impact of the YWSC on their self-perceptions and choices. Follow-up conversations empower the girls to add to ideas and concerns they voiced previously, helping the mentors interpret their stories.

The activities aim to improve the girls’ self-esteem; to encourage them to complete high school and apply for college; to embrace healthy living behaviors; and to pursue creative activities that foster knowledge of women’s history, self-expression, appreciation of positive role models, honoring of cultural traditions, and collective efforts. This study adds considerably to the extant literature on immigrant daughters’ experiences, girls of color coming of age, and the impact of multi-tiered mentoring within a feminist, race-conscious, and social justice framework.

Susan E. Cayleff, Women’s Studies
San Diego State University

Alicia Chávez-Arteaga, Teatro Izcalli
Chelsea Cormier, Cristina Domínguez, Melissann Herron, Jessica Spain, & Sarah Wheeler, University of California, San Diego

Keywords: high school, mentoring, immigrants, San Diego, Southern California, African American, Chicano/Latino/Mexican, Central America, Asian/Asian American/Asian Pacific Islanders, racism/racial identity, girls, women

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Last Updated: May 06, 2016