Committing to Action at CGI America

Summer Search Blog

We recently sent our very own Sandra LaFleur, Vice President of Program, to the Clinton Global Initiative America 2016 (CGI America). Here is what she learned, in her own words. #GuestPost

Last week, I had the privilege of representing Summer Search as I joined more than 1,000 leaders in business, philanthropy, government and nonprofits at the sixth annual CGI America meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

The mission of CGI America is to turn ideas into action. To accomplish this, conference participants create and submit Commitments to Action, a defining feature of CGI America, which are concrete plans that address pressing challenges across a variety of sectors in the United States. The workgroup we participated in focused on critical needs in the college and career readiness space.

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A Call for Researchers and Practitioners: Mentoring Utilizing Critical and Culturally Relevant Perspectives

“Despite evidence that race and ethnicity plays an important role in mentoring relationships, there are limited research-based guidelines in the practice field regarding how race/ethnicity should be considered. Some of the most important resources in the field, such as Elements of Effective Practice (MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, 2009a), pay little attention to the role of race and ethnicity in mentoring programs (Sanchez, Colon-Torres, Feuer, Roundfield, Berardi, 2014).

This statement is the mentoring field’s call to action. While the newest edition of the Effective Elements does begin to address race and ethnicity, these nuanced issues are outside of its purview. Also, there is still a regrettable lack of information in this area, and much of it stems from a lack of critical and culturally relevant perspective, at least in documented ways, within the field. The Youth Mentoring Action Network seeks to establish a collaborative partnership and institute that will bring together mentoring researchers and practitioners to collaborate on projects, papers, training curriculum and other tools that can help make critical and culturally relevant mentoring a national and global reality. The development of this group will begin this year (2016) and will work to organize researchers, provide connections, and ultimately provide opportunities and resources for the support and promotion of this work.

We are currently seeking interest from mentoring researchers and practitioners who study and write about mentoring. After compiling a list of interested researchers, we intend to convene 1-2 meetings this year to establish a set of goals and objectives for our work. To guide our work, we have created the following guidelines for mentoring practice and research that is deemed critical and culturally relevant.

For Mentoring Practice:

-Mentoring that fully considers race, ethnicity, gender, class and sexuality when building the infrastructure for programs. Including programmatic structure, recruiting of mentors, training of mentors, support of mentoring relationships, mentoring activities and finally, target outcomes.

-Mentoring that is focused on critical consciousness and transformation rather than assimilation and adaptation

-Mentoring that places emphasis on the whole community, the whole protégé, rather than just parts of the whole

-Mentoring that includes, from its very inception, the needs of the community and the needs of the youth in the community (not about us without us)

-Mentoring that promotes and supports mentor/protégé partnerships for community transformation
For Mentoring Research:

-Mentoring research that utilizes critical frameworks; i.e. critical race theory, critical pedagogy, etc. for the analysis of mentoring relationships, mentoring outcomes, programmatic structures, and outcomes, etc.-Mentoring evaluation that moves beyond standard evaluative strategy and utilizes evaluative strategy that empowers the protégés and highlights programmatic outcomes beyond statistical ones. For example, empowerment evaluation, photovoice, etc.

-The full recognition of naturally occurring mentoring relationships as well as structures to “harness” and study them

-Challenging the mentoring meta-narrative with new and critical forms of research

E-mail with questions or other inquiries.

Submit Interest Here

Summer Search at the National Mentoring Summit

Excited to take part in a growing movement and even more excited to see that my work is being accepted and utilized in the mentoring field. #CriticalMentoring is coming to a program near you.

Summer Search Blog

As we wrap up National Mentoring Month, we recently sent our very own Sandra LaFleur, Vice President of Program, to the 2016 National Mentoring Summit. Here is what she learned, in her own words:

This year, the national mentoring “movement” is recognizing its 25th anniversary. This milestone is very special to me personally, because my own career in youth development began around the same time.

Back then, I was fresh out of graduate school, taking what I thought would be a short break before resuming my doctoral studies. I took the opportunity to work for an organization, Big Brothers Big Sisters, where I felt I could apply my talents, stretch my brain and feed my soul. At the time, “mentoring” was quickly becoming a buzzword, and with the recent release of groundbreaking research validating the impact of mentoring on youth outcomes, those were exciting times of growth and…

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Recent Thoughts About Black Death, Black Love, white Supremacy and the Fight…



It’s not too late. I know we’ve lost a lot of battles, a lot of beautiful boys a lot of beautiful girls. It might seem as if we can no longer fight, as if “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” has won and maybe, for right now, it has. Maybe it has won this particular battle, in this particular place, in this particular time, but it cannot win the war. We cannot allow ourselves to “go gentle into that good night”, cannot continue to “wear the mask that grins and lies”, cannot cope, sleep, survive, yield, acquiesce or any other passive form of being. We cannot. It’s too late to wait, it’s too urgent to stand, we must do more and we must do more daily, in our everyday lives, with our everyday time, and our everyday resources. Our collective must be meaningful, must be robust, must be loud, must be focused, must be energized, must be ready.

No more questions or trying to figure out why, we know the answers, we understand the truth, we live it daily, we breathe the air, we see the stares, we watch it on the news, we got receipts, we are the product, the commodity, been bought and sold, been shot down cold, we already know that Black…Lives…Matter. And this isn’t a poem, a piece, art, something for your shelf, or textbook or classroom, or podcast, to put on display to read or listen to passively. No, this is a declaration of will, in body, in mind, in soul, in love, in pride, in ego, in beauty, in life, in death, in spirit, in molecules and cells and neurons.

We are in a revolution, it’s a revolutionary act, an act of resistance, an act of defiance, to live unapologetically, without shame, in love with yourself for yourself, in love with your Black-ness, in love with your Brown-ness, in love with your Muslim-ness, with your Gay-ness, your Trans-ness, your Other-ness, to have voice, to have agency, to check white supremacy, to disrupt capitalism, to block traffic, to interrupt routine, to force remembrance, to BE. This is not finished.


Intersectionality and Mentoring LGBTQ Youth of Color: What I Learned

Coming of age in a society that often has limited options for young people is already quite complex, but coming of age in that same society as a Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ) youth of color can be even more so. Mentors for these youth must work to respond to the challenges they face. The concept of intersectionality, a concept coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, can be useful for mentors working with this population. In my process as a mentor, I had to look closely at how age, sexuality, and race intersected to create a myriad of challenges in the coming of age processes of my proteges. Informed by work with four Black and Latino LGBTQ youth, this is an examination of some of the issues facing LGBTQ youth of color and what I learned as I mentored them.

On Being Young
That my proteges were in high school when our mentoring relationships formed meant that they were at a critical juncture in their development and battling issues that come with being young. As adults, we often minimize the complexity of teenage thought. We want to question their judgment and ability to make sound decisions, and while I am not saying that young people are perfect, I am saying that their capacity to process and understand the complexity of the world is often very acute. However, this attitude, that they know very little and that they need to grow up, prohibits many adults from understanding that teens do, in fact, have very real understandings of identity. Teens experience a lack of freedom to express identity openly and to use voice as their perceived “place” in the world is often a subordinate one.

On Being LGBTQ
As a result of being “too” young, my proteges were often unable to identify, name and own their sexuality. In addition to that, they also had to navigate a world in which homoantagonism is pervasive, being very careful with the ways in which they expressed who they were. They had to consider the consequences of being openly gay, or being identified by others as gay, and to worry about what that could mean regarding their emotional and physical safety. They existed in a world where heterosexuality was “normal” and homosexuality abnormal, experimental or “a phase”, and that increased their fear and trepidation. And these fears were founded too since we know well the statistics surrounding homelessness, suicide, and violence among and against LGBTQ youth and adults. All of my proteges shared that one of their primary concerns about being open about their identities in high school was that they were first-hand witnesses of blatant homoantagonism in their schools, many of these acts unaddressed and sometimes supported by adults.

On Being Raced 
In my conversations with proteges about their decisions to “cover”, many of them expressed disdain for the concept of gayness to start. In fact, they identified “gayness as whiteness.” In each descriptor of their journey, they made statements about not wanting to be a cliche or a stereotype, and when asked to unpack that concept, they essentially described the effeminate white male so often portrayed in the media. As one of my proteges shared: “I was just trying to make everyone else see that I was this strong Black man, I was just trying to be a role model, an example for the Black community at school and if I was labeled gay then that would have taken so much from it”. This young man did not understand that he could be a strong Black man and gay at the very same time.

As a mentor whose purpose it was to provide guidance, I had more questions than answers about how to help each of my proteges navigate all of this. How would I remain sensitive to their need to cover though I knew they were struggling to name and own their identities? How would I respect the nature of our relationship and also recognize the expectations of their parents? How would I reassure them of their normality and help them connect with a history of LGBTQ voices of color? Experiences I had with these young people prompted me to begin reflecting on what the mentoring field needed to start explicitly focusing on issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality, essentially making mentoring more critical. Critical mentoring was needed to help mentors understand the challenges these issues bring to the mentoring relationship, to help them understand how to navigate these issues,  and to help them make mentoring a more transformative process.

Here’s What I Learned
I learned to be a model for LGBTQ youth of color. My proteges had taught me that my comfort with my identity provided a safe space for them. Too often folks who are traumatized carry that trauma into mentoring relationships with young people and the results are disastrous. My ability to live my life openly, honestly and unapologetically empowered these youth in ways I did not understand at the time. The fact that my proteges identified gayness as whiteness made this issue doubly important. They had seen very few examples of LGBTQ folks of color and needed to. I not only modeled that reality but was a link to others in the community, providing these youth with important community resources; i.e. social capital.

I learned to speak up about the whitening of the LGBTQ world and help my proteges see beyond media representations. I had to help them challenge existing metanarratives. They could not know unless they were explicitly taught, that they were descendants of Angela Davis, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Richard Rodriguez, James Baldwin and Alice Walker. They could not know that a struggle was already occurring, that their community had already begun to challenge the notion of their invisibility.

Most importantly, I learned to educate others. I started having conversations with other mentors, with mentoring organizations, with folks in the community. I started asking how we could be better for our LGBTQ youth of color, and I started providing workshops, seminars, and training sessions meant to help us all increase our knowledge and awareness of their unique perspectives. And I didn’t do this alone, believing firmly in the idea that mentoring is a collaborative endeavor, I partnered with one of my young proteges to do this work.

Too many of us have experienced the angst of being young, raced and LGBTQ to leave our youth to it all alone. We must volunteer to serve as mentors, make ourselves visible to existing mentoring programs. We must also build programs in our communities and teach the next generation about a strong and thriving lineage of LGBTQ people of color. We must help others to understand the importance of reaching out to these youth, providing them with a network of support. Finally, we must, like we do everywhere else, demand the humanity that we and the youth that we mentor deserve.

Creating a Culturally Relevant Mentoring Program for Girls of Color


Not too long ago, my colleagues and I created a mentoring program, called GirlPOWER!, for African American and Latina early adolescent girls. Our goal was to ensure that the program was gender specific as well as culturally and developmentally appropriate. We created the program in collaboration with Big Brothers Big Sisters Metropolitan Chicago, and our team was a racially/ethnically diverse group of mostly women. More information is provided about the process and the program in other sources (DuBois et al., 2008; Pryce et al., 2010). Below I outline some of the strategies we employed but added additional ones that you might find useful for your mentoring program for girls of color.

1. Gather stakeholders’ views about the needs of girls of color. We interviewed parents, mentors, mentees and staff members about the issues that they thought were important to address when serving African American and Latina girls. They also provided feedback on ideas we had about issues we thought were important. Gathering the views and opinions of stakeholders can be done in various ways; you can hold focus groups or interview people one-on-one. Or you can have workshops in which individuals have small group discussions and then share out to the larger group about the specific needs of girls of color. We conducted one-on-one interviews with the various stakeholders, which worked well for us because we were able to do the interviews at a location and date/time that was convenient for the participants.

2. Review the research literature about the specific racial and cultural processes that play a role in the healthy development of girls of color. Solid programs begin with research; it’s always a good idea to begin there. For instance, we found that a healthy ethnic/racial identity was important in promoting other positive outcomes (e.g., academic achievement) for youth of color. We also found that the role of racial discrimination took a negative toll on the development of girls of color. Thus, in our program we addressed how to promote a positive racial/ethnic identity as well as how to cope with discrimination in a healthy manner.

3. Do your program leadership, staff and mentors include members of the cultural group you plan to serve? A very important question to ask. If not, the organization leadership needs to reflect on why that is and get out to recruit leaders, staff, and mentors who are from the target group. Having a diverse set of adults in the organization will help girls of color feel like they belong and provide role models, but will also hold the organization and program accountable to better serve girls of color in a culturally appropriate way.

4. Arrange for consultants from the community (e.g., tribal elders) to help enhance the cultural relevance of your program. Whether these consultants serve on an advisory board that meets periodically to review and reflect on the program as girls’ needs evolve or participates in community centered evaluations of program outcomes, it is essential that these community experts be included in an ongoing way.

5. Provide training to staff and mentors to enhance their cultural humility and to reflect on social justice and inequality in our society. Train mentors and staff on the following: a) to reflect on their own privilege, assumptions, and biases about girls of color, b) the specific needs and issues faced by girls of color, c) oppression and social justice issues experienced by girls of color, and d) how to apply this knowledge to mentoring girls of color.

Bernadette Sánchez is an Associate Professor of Psychology at DePaul University. 


Pryce, J., Silverthorn, N., Sánchez, B., & DuBois, D.L. (2010). GirlPOWER!: Strengthening mentoring relationships through a structured, gender-specific program. New Directions for Youth Development, 126, 89-105.
DuBois, D. L., Silverthorn, N., Pryce, J., Reeves, E., Sanchez, B., Silva, A., Ansu, A. A., Haqq, S., & Takehara, J. (2008). Mentorship: The GirlPOWER! program. In C. W. Leroy & J. E. Mann (Eds.), Handbook of preventive and intervention programs for adolescent girls. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Mentor LGBTQ Youth, They Are the New Pride

My wife and I are educators working at the same school. On a daily basis we navigate micro-aggressions in the workplace; unwillingness to use our married name, discomfort when addressing us publicly, and lack of congratulations for milestones typically only recognized for heterosexual couples. It can be a challenge working in that kind of environment, and sometimes it takes a toll on us, but working with hundreds of amazing young people year after year, gives us the hope and strength we need to keep moving forward. As important, are the LGBTQ youth on our campus who view us as models, a living and breathing example of what their future can look like if they keep striving and thriving. So, we deal with the challenges, and mostly because if we give up, we are teaching them to give up as well.

If as LGBTQ adults my wife and I struggle to face these challenges, imagine what an LGBTQ youth, with little to no advocacy might feel. The challenges that all young people face today can be quite complex, but even more so when growing up LGBTQ. Though successful movements have arisen to address the many obstacles that the LGBTQ community faces, our young people, especially those of color, still lack support and advocacy in their daily lives. Facing what sometimes seems to be insurmountable odds, LGBTQ teens have higher rates of depression, suicide and homelessness than their heterosexual peers and are more likely to be deemed at-risk. They struggle, and with over 1.3 million of them without mentors, they often do it alone.

Our community has spent considerable amounts of time and money to usher in more progressive and inclusive policies, as well we should, but we still have quite a ways to go when it comes to addressing the needs of our youth. Where are the mentoring programs? Where are the mentors who are willing and who have been trained to work with LGBTQ youth? Where is the support from those who have gone before and who must surely, give back? Investing in the fight to secure our freedoms must also include investing in the future of our youth. After all, they are the new pride. What will all of the work we have done mean if our young people don’t see the benefit in their lives now? Our young people deserve mentors. And they need them, they need them for three reasons:

Mentoring relationships matter: Mentoring has been noted as an essential strategy for positive youth development. Studies show that the positive benefits youth receive when engaged in mentoring relationships include; high academic performance, fewer school absences, and less engagement in risky behaviors. Young people who make connections with mentors build healthier relationships and significantly expand their networks. If mentoring works for all other youth, it must certainly work for LGBTQ youth.

Mentors help build resilience: When young people have mentors, ones who engage them in self-care, self-love, and self-respect, it helps them to build the resilience they need to meet the challenges they face. We all know that rampant homo antagonism can break us down and harm our self-esteem. Having a mentor’s support can create a buffer for the toll that discrimination and life challenges can take on young people. Having a sounding board, having a support system, having someone who can show you how to navigate muddy waters, not only helps young people to survive but to thrive.

Mentors are models of pride: One of the most important aspects of mentoring is being a model. Sometimes mentors are one of the few adults, outside of parents, that young people see as examples of what they can grow into, what they can become. Without these models, young people lack a realistic vision of what life after youth looks like. Young people need to see adults who engage in healthy behaviors, have healthy relationships, live life triumphantly so that they know it is possible for them as well. It is said in the mentoring world that “what you give is what you get and what they see is what they will be.” Mentors must model pride and comfort in identity so that youth will follow.

LGBTQ youth need strong mentors, and they need these mentors now. Our community must come together to encourage, support and build resilience in our future, because, youth are the new pride.

The Difference Between Giving Access and Preparing for Access: How Schools are Failing Students of Color

The issue at hand has to do with how we view access. If access is simply defined as opening a door in order to allow someone to travel through to college, then secondary schools are more than meeting their goals. However, if access is defined as ensuring that students are prepared to meet the demands of higher education and of a future career, then scondary schools are failing dismally. Without utilizing a critical analysis that would require us to unpack issues of systemic racism, class discrimination, gender gaps, and an increasing reliance on standardized tests, I would suggest that secondary schools, focus on cultivating long-term success or preparation for access, rather than short-term gain or giving access.