Thursday, January 17, 2013

National Mentoring Month: SisterMentors - Supporting Girls and Women of Color in Washington, DC

DC Councilmember Recognizes Organization for 15 Years of Service to the District of Columbia and Beyond

WASHINGTON, DC - In 1997, a group of highly motivated women of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds came together to help each other complete their dissertations and earn their doctoral degrees.   SisterMentors, founded by Dr. Shireen Lewis, aims to increase the number of women of color who earn Ph.Ds., and to date have helped 42 women obtain their doctorate degrees in many disciplines, including in math, science and economics. Some of the women are now tenured faculty at universities and most are the first generation in their families to obtain an advanced degree.

SisterMentors cites that 50% of all people who begin a doctorate drop out at the dissertation writing stage, and the numbers are higher for women of color.  Statistics also show that the number of women of color Ph.Ds in the last 25 years has been extremely low.  

In 2011, the program expanded its efforts by mentoring young girls in elementary, middle, and high school to help reduce the high drop-out rate in the Washington, D.C. area.  Since then, SisterMentors has helped 19 young women of color get accepted to and attend college including Duke University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

On January 8, 2013, SisterMentors received a Ceremonial Resolution from the Council of the District of Columbia to honor the organization’s 15 years of service, and dedication to expanding access to educational opportunities for women and girls of color in the community.  The resolution, cited as “SisterMentors Recognition Resolution of 2013,” took effect in the District of Columbia Register.

“It is no secret that an educational achievement gap exists in this country, and programs like SisterMentors are essential in the fight to erase it,” said Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). “By supporting and mentoring young women as they matriculate through college and graduate school, SisterMentors is providing an invaluable service to our community, and the city is grateful to them for all of their work.”

Dr. Lewis (pictured above in pink shirt and glasses) has received national recognition for her work as well – named as a woman making a powerful difference by Pine Sol, with an accompanying feature in Essence Magazine.  She shared,“We are appreciative of the support of the Council of the District of Columbia and Councilmember Cheh and we are honored to receive this recognition from the city we love and are committed to serving.  Higher education for women of color is our passion and we are looking forward to guiding more young women to achieve their highest potential.”

SisterMentors is a project of EduSeed, a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. that promotes education among historically disadvantaged and underserved communities, particularly women and people of color. Visit the website at

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