We are multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-generational women and girls of color. We are African Americans, Latinx, Muslim Americans, Asian Americans, immigrants and refugees of color.
As women and girls of color, we experience overlapping oppressions which disrupt and upend our lives every day.
We believe that collective power is the key to transforming individual lives and the lives of those in our communities.
Our work centers the needs and dreams of women and girls of color in the education system in the face of deep-seated institutional inequities. For girls and young women, we help fulfill the dream of a college degree —and beyond. For women, we create and implement strategies of survival to combat the isms (racism, sexism, classism, colorism) and phobias (homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia) which threaten to push them out of their doctoral programs and the academy.
We help to advance the larger movement for equity and justice for people of color and other marginalized communities. For close to 25 years, we have helped over 100 women of color to earn higher education degrees including Ph.Ds. in Math, Science and Economics.
Our overarching goal is to help women and girls of color live in freedom and dignity and to pass this on to the next generation.
OUR APPROACH AND IMPACT
We make a long-term commitment to the girls in our program starting in elementary and middle school and following them through high school and college graduation. Girls spend anywhere from nine to 15 years in our program. With mentoring, annual 5-day college visits and leadership and life skills workshops, our girls learn how to succeed in high school, in college and in life.
With peer-mentoring and writing retreats, the women of color doctoral students move from dissertation to doctorate. They mentor our young girls and benefit from career advancement and support through SisterMentors extensive network. They gain satisfaction from having made a difference in the academic and personal life of a young girl, while making lasting friendships with their peers who helped them succeed on their doctoral journey.
The ripple effects of our work are far reaching in and beyond the Washington, D.C. area. Since most of our young women are first generation college graduates, they make a significant impact on their siblings, their parents, their relatives and their community. The women we have helped to earn doctorates are now impacting the lives of countless people including as professors at universities, leaders at nonprofits, and executives in government and the private sector.
We have helped 95 women of color to earn bachelors, masters and doctorates, including in Math, Science and Economics.
In 1997, four women of color doctoral students, Shireen Lewis, Melissa Littlefield, Philipia Hillman and Judi Moore Latta met at Sisterspace and Books, a bookstore in Washington, D.C. devoted to selling books by and about African American women. We came together because we were all in desperate need of help completing our dissertations and were not getting the help we needed at our universities.
After that night, as word got out about the group, more and more women kept coming. The need for support for doctoral women students of color was unquestionable.
Sometime around 2000, Kangbai Konate, one of the women who had recently joined SisterMentors, suggested mentoring young girls of color from low income families, since the data showed a high dropout rate among children of color. We all knew this reality since, for those at predominantly white institutions, we were seeing so few young women of color undergraduates and even fewer pursuing graduate degrees. We also knew that there were no doctoral students or Ph.Ds organized in mentoring young girls of color and who were visible as role models — to open the eyes of girls of color to college educated women who looked like them and who were persevering in school and achieving academic success despite the odds.
Around that same time, Shireen Lewis and a group of people, including Montina Cole, created EduSeed, the nonprofit umbrella for SisterMentors. SisterMentors was then adopted as EduSeed’s nonprofit program.