Organization uses tea, conversation, mentorship to introduce teen grils to careers

(Back row, L-R:) Raiko Dai, Ashley Funes, Kymber Menkiti, Jumoke Akiosi, Meedie Bardonille and Terrie Hunt during Crittenton Services of Greater Washington’s 2023 High Tea event. (Front row, L-R:) Yoselind Saucedo, Michelle Graham, Fatoumata Touray, Sephora Aho, Jessica Menso and Shannon Quiroz also attended. Crittenton Services of Greater Washington serves middle and high school girls while helping them to better prepare for life in the real world. One hundred teen girls will experience a unique mentoring opportunity during Crittenton’s Annual High Tea event on April 25, 2024, from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Catholic University of America, Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, located in Washington, DC. Crittenton is seeking mentors from the work world for the organization’s next High Tea event. Photo credit: Crittenton Services of Greater Washington

Leteria Bailey knows firsthand that supportive mentors can positively impact a young girl’s future trajectory. She recalls becoming involved with Crittenton Services of Greater Washington as a high school sophomore. Crittenton serves middle and high school girls while helping them to better prepare for life in the real world.

“I was in the SNEAKERS program [for teen girls] and that was my first introduction to Crittenton,” Bailey said, also mentioning that she later interned with the nonprofit. “I’ve done events as an alum. I’ve continued to support them years later just because that program was so impactful for me in high school.”

Although Bailey completed Crittenton’s program in 2011, she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the administrative side of the program as an intern. Bailey became a mentee of several women who are connected to Crittenton, including the current CEO and president, LaTara Harris.

LaTara Harris, CEO and president of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
Photo credit: Ross Multimedia Group

“It was nice having these adults who were in such leadership positions that took the time to still teach me different life skills and to stay connected to me as well,” Bailey said, citing the longevity of various relationships that she built through Crittenton. “They go above and beyond to support us.”

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, which is a Silver Spring, Maryland-based nonprofit, also had a great impact on Bailey’s career choice after interning. She chose to work in service and youth development.

“You can say that Crittenton sort of propelled me into the nonprofit sector and into wanting to serve and learn what my community means and how I could step up,” the proud Crittenton alum said.


Today’s generation of teen girls will experience a unique mentoring opportunity during Crittenton’s Annual High Tea event on April 25, 2024, from 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Catholic University of America, Edward J. Pryzbyla University Center, located in Washington, DC on Bring Your Child To Work Day.

Bailey will host the event where 100 Crittenton girls will gather for an immersive career exposure experience alongside individuals such as business, finance, government, healthcare and philanthropy leaders.

Harris shared additional insight into the High Tea’s purpose.

“It’s to give our girls more career and college exposure, exposing them to potential internship and externship opportunities as well. But it really is their opportunity to meet directly with men and women in the working world over something as special as tea. It’s a mentoring opportunity for adults to give back. The students also have a chance to learn while they’re there.”

During the dynamic event, each table will be comprised of an intentional combination of teen girls and leaders, creating chances to network.





Harris added, “This event has a strong tradition of hearing from our bright and dynamic girls through panel discussions and honoring Crittenton scholars during our scholarship award presentation.”

Additionally, scholarships will be awarded to graduating seniors.

Crittenton has been around for 135 years and focuses on developing “the whole girl.” Program leaders work with girls in schools located in Washington, DC and in Montgomery County, Maryland. Services are provided to sixth through twelfth-grade girls. A Goal Setting Program, SNEAKERS and a Pearls program for girls who are parenting, or pregnant teens are among the programs that are provided throughout the school year.

“For the past years, our girls that are advancing through the program have successfully graduated from high school 99 -100% of the time,” Harrison said.

She briefly mentioned that about two years ago, the graduation rate during the pandemic was 99 percent.

Adults in the community can help support teen girls by showing up for them this month. Men and women who work in STEM careers, leadership positions, entrepreneurship capacities, philanthropy or other professions that comprise the work world are invited to purchase a ticket and attend the event. They will impart wisdom to Crittenton’s young girls during the substantive afternoon.

Bailey wants to remind others that it is important to support the High Tea. Eye opening possibilities about what she could accomplish professionally as a young Black woman began because of Crittenton’s female network. She recalls meeting a Black woman who was in a leadership position for what she believes was the first time in her life, during the High Tea that she attended in her youth.

“If we invest the time and effort into our girls when they’re teens, the possibilities are endless when they enter adulthood,” Bailey said.


*This event has already passed

AT&T executive LaTara Harris leaves Corporate America to head Crittenton Services of Greater Washington



LaTara Harris recently became the CEO and president of Crittenton Service of Greater Washington, an organization that supports teen girls’ emotional, physical and psychological well-being. The move comes after a 10-year stint with AT&T in legislative and external affairs. (Photo Courtesy of Ross Multimedia Group, Justin Ross)

By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

LaTara Harris, the former director of external and legislative affairs for AT&T in the Mid-Atlantic region, has returned to the nonprofit sector. Harris, who previously worked for the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education (MBRT), became the CEO and president of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (Crittenton) on Oct. 16. 

The organization supports teenage girls in developing essential life skills, preparing them for postsecondary education and careers while ensuring they believe in their ability to succeed. 

“At Crittenton, we ensure that every teen girl, regardless of her race or ethnicity, has the support, knowledge and skills that they need to thrive,” said Harris. “During the pandemic, we were serving about 600 girls, and now, we’ve doubled that number. The beauty of all of it is that we discuss the whole girl.” 

Harris previously chaired Crittenton’s board of directors for several years. She said the organization addresses the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of the young women. 

Year-over-year, the teens enrolled in Crittenton’s programming have had a 100 percent high school graduation rate, despite the fact that many of them attend schools with lower graduation rates, according to Harris. 

“I’m most excited to finally get in front of the girls. I know I’m the CEO. I have to run the operation and get the funding stabilized and growing for us to be able to have the kind of impact we want,” said Harris. “I’m excited to bring a voice to this work.” 

Harris grew up moving around a lot, as her father was in the military. Although her parents finished high school, they never went to college. It was up to Harris to choose higher education for herself. 

Initially, Harris studied accounting at Bowie State University. Although she excelled in her classes, she didn’t feel satisfied by the area of study. Harris decided to switch to communications and quickly discovered that she had an affinity for community service. 

While volunteering for the Donnie Simpson Morning Show, Harris realized for the first time that her career could be something that would bring her joy. 

“It was the first time that I literally saw people come to work who were genuinely happy. I thought part of work was going and being miserable,” said Harris. “But, they were happy, and I wanted that. I found it through volunteering.” 

When she was introduced to the MBRT, the organization needed help recruiting speakers to talk to students about life after high school and the opportunities available to them. Eventually, Harris’ volunteerism turned into a full-time job in 2002. 

“When we first started the Speakers Bureau, we had hoped to recruit 30, but we ended up with 80,” said June Streckfus, former executive director for MBRT. “By the time LaTara got involved, we had 3,000 speakers statewide.” 

Harris was also instrumental in creating MBRT’s Maryland Scholars program, which ensures students have completed the requisite coursework to attend college and be career-ready. 

“She’s really good at rallying people’s collective sense of responsibility. She can figure out how to create spaces for others to thrive, and I think that’s really important in these times,” said Streckfus. “I know in her heart she wants to impact the next generation, and we need more people who want to do that.” 

After more than 10 years at MBRT, Harris joined AT&T to lead external and legislative affairs in Washington D.C.

“I didn’t know what a lobbyist was, but lobbying is something that people do everyday. It’s all about relationship-building and understanding the push and pull and how to work on complex issues,” said Harris. “AT&T came to me at a time when my soul was ready to move forward.”


LaTara Harris recently became the CEO and president of Crittenton Service of Greater Washington, an organization that supports teen girls’ emotional, physical and psychological well-being. The move comes after a 10-year stint with AT&T in legislative and external affairs. (Photo Courtesy of Ross Multimedia Group, Justin Ross)

As a lobbyist, Harris worked directly with state and local elected officials to advocate for policies that would benefit the work of AT&T and the broader telecommunications industry. In her external affairs role, she identified charitable organizations to fund and support. 

Harris also created scholarships for historically, Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University. 

“I was able to work with charities in the community on meaningful programs that were really helping and moving the communities forward. That’s one job that I took really seriously,” said Harris. “I wasn’t the type of person that was going to give money just for the sake of giving money. They needed to make sure that they were having an impact on the communities that we are living and working in.” 

After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, AT&T appointed Harris to be a member of the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce. She was responsible for engaging employees from her department to participate in the task force’s programming, which included unconscious bias training, book clubs, listening sessions and access to mental health specialists.

“I believed I had to lend my voice to this work because so many young people are going to come behind me, and I don’t want them to come into the kind of structure that I came into,” said Harris. “That’s not to say that the company was bad at all, but I think we all found blind spots in corporations and businesses in general.” 

Megan Sayles is a Report for America corps member. 

Crittenton Services of Greater Washington Welcomes New CEO & President

After a national search, LaTara Harris takes the helm of the longest standing organization serving teen girls.



Her outstanding leadership and expertise will be invaluable in guiding the organization through its next phase of growth and development.”

— Aaron Myers, Executive Director, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES, October 18, 2023 / — Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (CSGW) announces the appointment of LaTara Harris as its CEO and President, effective Monday, Oct. 16, 2023. Ms. Harris has a long history with CSGW, having volunteered at their first Leadership Summit to teach teen girls etiquette and manners. She was subsequently honored at their 2014 Anniversary Celebration and has been a steadfast member of CSGW’s Board of Directors for many years. As an active community member, Ms. Harris serves on several boards, including the District of Columbia’s Workforce Investment Council.

Ms. Harris brings a wealth of experience to CSGW, with a proven track record of success in leadership positions. Ms. Harris has been with AT&T since 2013, most recently serving as Director of External and Legislative Affairs, focused on local legislative and regulatory matters in Maryland, the District of Columbia and Southeastern Pennsylvania. Ms. Harris joined AT&T after more than a decade of working at the Maryland Business Roundtable for Education in executive roles, including Director of Partnerships and Outreach.

“LaTara is the perfect candidate for this position and has demonstrated her commitment to this organization over her many years of serving on Crittenton Services’ Board and as Board Chair,” says Aaron Myers, Executive Director of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and CSGW Board Secretary. Aaron Myers served honorably as the Interim President and CEO prior to the appointment of Ms. Harris. “Her outstanding leadership and expertise will be invaluable in guiding the organization through its next phase of growth and development.”

Ms. Harris is a visionary leader, having been honored for her outstanding professional achievements and her significant contributions to the community. Notable among her numerous accolades are the Maryland Daily Record’s prestigious Maryland’s Top 100 Women Award in 2015 and the Washington Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader Award, further underscoring her positive impact and commitment to diversity and excellence.

Throughout her illustrious career, Ms. Harris has shown a powerful commitment to elevating women’s voices in business, emphasizing the critical importance of Black and minority leadership in corporate and nonprofit sectors. She founded We Empower Women Inc., a global women’s organization that aims to uplift and motivate women of all walks to take the next step toward their full potential. She has personally mentored dozens of individuals across the years to identify their gifts and find their space in this world.

Ms. Harris expresses her excitement about the future with CSGW and the opportunity to work with their talented staff and program team. “I am deeply honored to assume the role of CEO and President at Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. This organization boasts a remarkable history of effectively delivering vital programs and resources to empower young women. I am both thrilled and humbled to be part of this journey. Together, we will build an even stronger foundation, capitalize on new opportunities, and chart a path of sustained success.”

CSGW is hosting its 135th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 16, at the Hamilton Live. If you would like to attend and learn more about the bright futures of Crittenton girls, contact for a press pass.

For any questions or press inquiries, please contact Abby Saturni at or visit

About CSGW: For more than 134 years, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (CSGW) has equipped teen girls in underserved communities with the skills and support to navigate the challenges of middle and high school. Through the lens of trauma-informed care, our programs teach teen girls to value their gifts and develop essential life skills. Most importantly, they attain a belief in their ability to succeed. The success of our programs is reflected by our 100% graduation rate, with 83% of our graduates going on to attend a two- or four-year college. Please visit to learn more about our programs.

Crittenton Services
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Crittenton Services 135th Celebration – Kick Off Recap

Talk with a Teen Girl Today, Episode 2

We are excited to release our second episode of Talk With A Teen Girl Today, our newest video series where Crittenton girls have an opportunity to interview different powerhouse women and role models in their community!
Our latest episode features Senior SNEAKERS girl, Naomi Conteh, and Colonel Jennifer Aupke, U.S. Air Force Helicopter Pilot. Colonel Aupke is also a Co-Founder of The Milieux Project, a nonprofit connecting girls to aviation.
In this episode, you’ll learn about aviation careers for women, Colonel Aupke’s personal journey serving in the military, building prosperous opportunities for women in male-dominated fields, and more.

Talk with a Teen Girl Today

We are excited to announce our first episode of Talk With A Teen Girl Today, our newest video series where Crittenton girls have an opportunity to interview different powerhouse women and role models in their community!
We begin this series with our very own SNEAKERS girl and rising Dunbar High School Senior, Iman Bangura, and joining her is the incredible Dr.Evelyn Boyd Granville, Dunbar’s class of 1941 Valedictorian and the second African American woman to receive a Doctoral Degree in Mathematics.
Iman and Dr. Granville discuss life at Dunbar, what to expect when entering college and what it was like for Dr. Granville attending Smith College during WWII, her career as one of the first Black women in STEM, and more.

What Our Girls Want You to Know

Every year, the Crittenton community comes together at our Talk with a Teen Girl High Tea to hear what’s on the mind of our remarkable girls. This year, the girls spoke to the particular challenges of being a black or brown teen girl during the pandemic. Here’s what our girls want you to know about their lives:


Our girls feel rushed and invalidated when talking with school teachers and counselors. They see limited funding going to their schools and communities and are frustrated with the lack of accessible mental health services for themselves and others.


Our girls recognize their parents and family members are suffering from their own trauma and mental health challenges. They urge adults to get help so they can better help the next generation.


Our girls believe that, “Because black women have been through a lot and always hold it all together,” they’re seen as always having to be strong. And if they’re the oldest, they have the added responsibility of child care. (See this New York Times article, No Time to be a Child, that features two Crittenton girls).


Whether it’s a teacher interrupting a lesson to answer questions, a counselor taking the time to get to know them, or a school day dedicated to mental health, they need a chance to take a breath, put their needs first, and tend to their own wellness.


Most importantly, our girls agreed that they need to speak up, to advocate for themselves and others. Each one had an important point to make about this:

Ruth: If something isn’t right, speak up, even if you’re talking to someone with more power than you and even if you get in trouble.

Amiya: Everyone has a boss, so if the problem really needs to be addressed, go to the Assistant Principal, to the Principal, or even the School Board! Also, be respectful when you talk to them.

Naomi: Speaking up is how you get progress. As long as you’re making a point and expressing yourself, it’s more important to speak up than to simply accept defeat.

Jasmine: It’s hard when you’re shy, like me. But if you tell one adult, they’ll tell another, and soon your problem will be heard.

You can watch the hour-long program here. And if you’re inspired, please make an investment in our remarkable girls. You can make a gift here.

A Vision to See Entire Communities Help Raise Kids: A Podcast

Siobhan shared her “bold and brave vision” for a future in which the community – from neighbors, to businesses, to schools, and churches – are wrapped around the youth to help raise them up into adulthood for a thriving future.
Listen in as Siobhan and host Amanda Bocik discuss:

  • The mission of Crittenton Services and the important programs they are providing for young girls
  • How Siobhan’s upbringing impacted her and led her to where she is today
  • The devastating impact of COVID-19 on young, underserved girls
  • What adultification bias is and how to be aware of it
  • How the Crittenton team pivoted to serve the girls in their community through the pandemic
  • Her advice for building relationships with teens in your community
  • The importance of the whole community for raising kids
  • And more!

Hear the full Podcast, here.

How Crittenton’s Cupboard Campaign Makes a Big Difference in Our Communities

98% of Crittenton girls live in economically challenged communities. Over the years, when they’ve needed it most, we’ve stepped in—providing computers for school, safe rides home, feminine products, and school uniforms. During the pandemic we’ve also paid for groceries, car repairs, and, sadly, funeral expenses. Our aim is to prevent unanticipated financial hardships from snowballing into insurmountable challenges.

Last year we launched the Crittenton Cupboard Campaign to stock our virtual Cupboard of necessities and emergency funds. Below is one example of how these funds made a difference for an alumna of our programs.

February 2022
“Pray for me.” Jahnia asked Lameka, her best friend since they were in Crittenton’s Pearls program together.

After three years in an apartment with black mold, a broken oven, and a refrigerator that leaked constantly, Jahnia thought she’d finally found a new home for her and her boys. But the security deposit kept increasing. First it was $500, then $1,000. When it hit $1,500, she knew she was in trouble. She’d been saving; she had first and last month’s rent, $1,000 for the security deposit, and even money set aside for a DIY moving van. She needed another $500. Worst yet, she’d given notice and her current landlord wouldn’t grant her an extension. She had to be out in a few weeks.

Jahnia tried everything she could think of. She asked family members for a loan. She reached out to her church. She was stuck.

Lameka had been watching this saga play out over the past few years. She would have gladly lent Jahnia the money, but she and her husband had just moved their family, so money was tight. “I was thinking through options, and thought ‘Let me check with Miss Deb’”.

Miss Deb is the long-standing and much beloved advisor to many of the Crittenton Pearls groups, including the one where Jahnia and Lameka learned to balance the demands of motherhood and high school. “Whenever I had an issue—if my baby wasn’t latching—I could turn to Miss Deb. If she didn’t have the answer, she knew where to turn.” Lameka explained.

“Call Siobhan.” Miss Deb told her. “I think Crittenton can help.”

Crittenton’s CEO and President, Siobhan Davenport, got the call a few minutes later. Although she wasn’t on staff when Lameka and Jahnia were in Pearls, she happened to be honored by Crittenton their senior year. (In fact, it was Jahnia who introduced Siobhan at Crittenton’s 2015 Anniversary Celebration!)

Lameka explained the situation and Siobhan told her about the Crittenton Cupboard. Within two hours, Jahnia had the money in her bank account. The move went smoothly, and she and her boys are thriving.

“I’m so grateful.” Jahnia wants donors to the Cupboard Campaign to know. “I hope I can be part of something like this in the future, helping someone else in a similar situation. Thank you.”

The 2022 Crittenton Cupboard Campaign will take place in June. If you’d like to participate, please contact Siobhan Davenport at

Crittenton Services named a grantee in The Goldman Sachs One Million Black Women (OMBW) Initiative!


  • One Million Black Women announces new investments, impactful partnerships and philanthropic grants for 17 leading organizations and projects across the country to lift up Black women and girls.
  • One Million Black Women announces new partnership with the renowned King Center ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  

NEW YORK, January 12, 2022 – The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (NYSE: GS) today announced the next round of investments, partnerships and grants for the One Million Black Women initiative. The announcement was made following the January 12 One Million Black Women Advisory Council meeting, which consists of 17 Black business and community leaders. At the meeting, One Million Black Women highlighted a new partnership with the renowned King Center to prepare young people to be the global leaders of tomorrow ahead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The series of 17 new investments, partnerships and grants reflect One Million Black Women’s ongoing commitment to invest in the core pillars of healthcare, job creation and workforce development, education, affordable housing, digital connectivity, financial health and access to capital that impact Black women at every stage in their lives. Many of the organizations were identified through the more than 50 One Million Black Women listening sessions held with nearly 20,000 Black women from around the country, and the One Million Black Women Advisory Council.

“At our very first listening session, the one and only Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, called One Million Black Women the start of a movement. With this next round of investments, partnerships and grants, we are reaching a new depth of how transformative Goldman Sachs $10 billion commitment is set to be,” said Melanie Campbell, Convener, Black Women’s Roundtable, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

“Through the listening sessions, we’ve heard from Black women all over the country. These women are building non-profit organizations and companies with their personal savings and loans from family members because they care so deeply about their communities,” said Dr. Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University. “I am so pleased that with this next round of investments, partnerships, and grants, we are able to support these phenomenal women and we can see how transformative their initiatives and projects can be.”

New investment capital will be provided to expand the impact of the following seven organizations and entrepreneurs across the country:

  • Chime Solutions (Atlanta, GA) to provide capital to Shelly Wilson, co-founder of Chime Solutions to accelerate its mission of creating jobs and economic opportunity for people in underserved communities.
  • Grameen America Elevate Initiative (National) to make microloans and provide financial training, asset and credit building tools to underserved Black-women entrepreneurs across the country.
  • Funding U (National) to make loans to high-performing low and moderate-income students attending four-year, not-for-profit colleges across the United States.
  • Wonderschool (National) to reduce “childcare deserts” by scaling access to high-quality, flexible care for children and families.
  • On the Road (Dallas, TX) to expand existing operations and increase the number of women in high-paying, skilled auto repair jobs through an extensive apprenticeship program.
  • Sendero Verde (New York, NY) to finance the construction of a public-private, mixed-use, mixed-income development in East Harlem which will consist of a Harlem Children’s Zone K-5 Promise Academy, and affordable and workforce housing units.
  • South Meadows (Rome, GA) to provide capital to Dionne Nelson, CEO of Laurel Street to finance the construction of a 100% affordable residential development with 80 multi-family units, an onsite educational facility and community farm.

Four new partnerships will support the work of the following organizations:

  • The King Center (Atlanta, GA) to support the launch of the reimagined Beloved Community Leadership Academy over the next two years, creating a One Million Black Women cohort for Black girls from across the country.
  • Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation (Oakland, CA) to combat food insecurity and low literacy rates, the partnership will employ Black woman-owned restaurants to provide meals in high-needs areas and help distribute 500,000 books through new Eat. Learn. Play. Town Libraries used to promote neighborhood book sharing along with Eat. Learn. Play. branded bookshelves in local Black-owned small businesses.
  • New Leaders (National) to recruit and train principals of color. The grant will develop a one-year pilot program to support Black women in education leadership.
  • The Tory Burch Foundation (National) will partner with the venture leaders at the Fearless Fund and peer coaching platform The Cru, to scale a grants program and community for entrepreneurs of color.

New philanthropic grants will be provided to expand the impact of the following six organizations across the country:

  • Black Girls Breathing (National) to address systemic issues impacting Black women and girls’ access to health care by providing free and accessible mental health care resources.
  • BlackFem (National) to transform school-based learning so that girls of color have the skills, habits, and resources to build and sustain personal wealth.
  • Corner to Corner (Nashville, TN) to help underestimated entrepreneurs in Nashville plan, start and grow their own small businesses.
  • Crittenton Services of Greater Washington (Washington, D.C.) to support the social and emotional skills development of middle and high school-aged girls from low-income families to complete college and become economically secure.
  • Jeremiah Program (National) to help disrupt the cycle of poverty for single mothers and their children through quality early childhood education, a safe and affordable place to live, empowerment and life skills training.
  • The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA) to increase the hiring and retention of BIPOC teachers working in Philadelphia schools.

Goldman Sachs Black Womenomics research informed One Million Black Women’s investment strategy and ongoing research and measurement remains core to the initiative’s success. Through partnerships with The Ruth J. Simmons Center for Race and Justice at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), the Urban Institute and The Center for Racial Justice at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, additional research will be conducted centered on continued investment in Black women across One Million Black Women’s previously identified impact pillars.

“This next round of funding strategically connects the dots across several One Million Black Women impact areas and not only supports the infrastructure that Black women and their families need to thrive but has the potential to uplift communities and address generations of racial and gender inequities,” said Margaret Anadu, Global Head of Sustainability and Impact for Goldman Sachs Asset Management. “We are focused on deploying Goldman Sachs resources in the most effective and impactful ways, and so we are thrilled to support these entrepreneurs and organizations who have a demonstrated track record of supporting their communities.”

“We are proud to lift up the brilliant work of organizations positively impacting Black women and girls,” said Asahi Pompey, Global Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement and President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. “The systemic gender and racial biases black women have faced won’t be reversed overnight, but with continued investment, coordination, and focus, we have good reasons to be optimistic.”

About the One Million Black Women Initiative

In partnership with Black-women-led organizations, financial institutions and other partners, Goldman Sachs has committed $10 billion in direct investment capital and $100 million in philanthropic capital over the next decade to address the dual disproportionate gender and racial biases that Black women have faced for generations, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. The initiative, One Million Black Women, is named for and guided by the goal of impacting the lives of at least one million Black women by 2030.

About Goldman Sachs

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a leading global financial institution that delivers a broad range of financial services across investment banking, securities, investment management and consumer banking to a large and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals. Founded in 1869, the firm is headquartered in New York and maintains offices in all major financial centers around the world. 

Leteria: A Sneakers Success Story


Twelve years ago, my life changed. 

On the outside, I looked like a typical 16-year-old high school student. But, on the inside, I was secretly suffering. It felt like the world was against me. I was the victim of vicious rumors by students, and racist school administrators made it hard to show up every day.

But, everything changed when I joined Crittenton’s SNEAKERs program. I remember the exact activity we did that day. We each wrote our names on paper, and each person in our group went around and wrote positive affirmations about each other. In a group filled with all the personalities and attitudes of high school girls, this was epic. For the first time in my teenage years, I had a group of girls I could actually trust and speak freely about the many issues I was going through at the time.  For the first time in my life, I genuinely felt validated by my peers in a positive light. SNEAKERS stands for Self-efficacy, Nurturance, Expectations, Assertiveness, Knowledge, Empowerment, Responsibility, and Success, and throughout the school year, we learned about safe sex, building healthy relationships, and creating SMART goals. I still use those principles as a foundation today.

My experience in SNEAKERS stayed with me well into adulthood because it was the first time I had ever had an open and transparent relationship with an adult in my life, too.

I didn’t feel comfortable talking to my parents, family members, or any other adults at school, but Crittenton’s program leaders were the trusted adults in my life. It made all the difference. 

Crittenton’s program left such an impact on me that I began my career in youth development work after I graduated. Little did I know there was an entire field of adults dedicated to working with kids in a way that prioritizes social and emotional learning similar to SNEAKERS! 

Crittenton also piqued my interest in philanthropy after volunteering with them. As an alumna, I learned about other NGOs and their missions to serve youth through different mediums. I began interning, volunteering, and working part-time for three different Montgomery County nonprofits. Then, at 23, I started my professional career as a full-time Youth Development Program Coordinator and Training Coordinator for the Montgomery County Collaboration Council.

For five years, I researched and developed digital platforms for youth workers, coordinated over 200 public events and symposia, and supported the distribution and monitoring of over 1.5 million dollars to fund countywide youth development programs–including Crittenton. Talk about full circle! I am proud to be a Crittenton girl who is not only an alumna but someone who is equally invested in uplifting our youth of color through advocacy AND action.

Now, 12 years later, as an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Wife, and the proud mommy of two,  I am forever grateful for the impact Crittenton programs have had and continue to have on my life. Crittenton puts the WHOLE girl first so that the future woman can prosper and evolve.






How Food and Housing Insecurity Imprints on Young Brains in D.C.

Ambar Castillo | Washington City Paper

Young D.C. residents who dealt with food and housing insecurity during the pandemic are still dealing with the consequences, even when more resources are available.

Long before the start of Fall 2021 classes were on anyone’s radar, caretakers, teachers, and other adults in children’s lives already had reason to fear that the kids were not alright. In D.C., food insecurity and housing instability, in addition to disruptions from their routines, the longtime isolation from peers, and the loss or illness of family members due to COVID-19, meant children’s mental health was in a precarious place during this formative time in their development. The return to in-person classes—and subsequent high number of quarantines due to potential COVID-19 exposure that has marked the start of schools—didn’t help the problem. 

Dr. Stacy Cary-Thompson, a D.C.-based pediatrician who has seen patients in person throughout the pandemic, points out that child abuse has surged during the pandemic, partly due to such overlapping issues of insecurity. Child abuse has a significant correlation with mental illness and is something she, as a pediatrician, constantly has on her mind.

“Parents and other caregivers are stressed during COVID,” she says. “Their support networks have shrunken, [and] … there have been changes to job and financial security. And children feel the effects of this. And so certainly there can be changes in family dynamics that the children witness, but also the pressure of the changes can manifest in a violent way.” 

Housing Instability: Not Just a Home Issue for Students

“D.C. is a very special place in the sense that … a lot of what’s happening in the streets and in the homes often pours into the schools,” Sam P. K. Collins of The Washington Informer said during a “World in Black” virtual roundtable discussion on education Wednesday. “When students come in … they’re suffering from homelessness, they’re suffering from mental health issues, things that manifest in low grades and low educational attainment.” This is particularly the case in communities located east of the Anacostia River, Collins points out. 

Housing insecurity isn’t just the typical picture we have of homelessness, Alexis Taylor, a teacher and contributing writer for the Baltimore Afro American, reminded folks at the same panel. 

“Homeless doesn’t always mean that you’re on the street,” she said. “Homeless can mean that you’re bouncing from couch to couch each night, homeless could mean that sometimes you’re sleeping with a cousin at their house, and then other times with a family friend, so it’s not stable housing.” 

Along with housing insecurity, food insecurity is one of the top factors that has contributed to a “twin pandemic” of COVID and systemic racism and inequality, both nationally and in the District. Caregivers at the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center reported that the number of children they see for “failure to thrive” due to malnutrition rose by 40 percent during the pandemic. New patients were in more critical condition than pre-pandemic and an unusual number of “graduated” patients were returning for the same issue. In D.C., the Capital Area Food Bank’s 2021 hunger report showed large spikes of food insecurity among Black and Latino households. 

Particularly early on in the pandemic, with supply chains disrupted and supermarket shelves left bare, many families couldn’t get the food they needed during this critical period in children’s growth. Many folks, having lost their job or left their job due to COVID-related health concerns, struggled to put food on the table. With schools closed, school meals were no longer a food source on which low-income families with children could rely. Some families lost their SNAP benefits once the pandemic boost in unemployment benefits kicked in. Now that some pandemic unemployment benefits have ended, the city has been pushing for folks to apply or reapply for resources like SNAP.

But even now, with food supplies mostly restored and social service programs and community support helping fill the gaps for some families, children impacted aren’t left unscarred: For developing brains, even short-lived moments of food deprivation can contribute to social-emotional and behavioral problems, apart from other ailments. A BMC study published in late March of 2714 low-income families nationwide found that food insecurity was highly associated with anxiety and depression during the pandemic—it posed three times the risk of developing mental illness as that of losing a job. And researchers found that SNAP, unemployment benefits, and stimulus payments weren’t associated with a reduced risk of mental illness. 

When schools closed last March, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington conducted a needs assessment of the roughly 500 sixth- to 12th-grade girls the organization serves annually, finding that these teens were already experiencing food insecurity. The nonprofit, which partners with schools to deliver social-emotional learning and academic success programs for teen girls, was one of various organizations that stepped in to help fill the gap, helping more than 450 families in the DMV secure food and other essentials at the peak of the pandemic. 

Black and Latina Teens Face Greater Mental Health Challenges During Pandemic

Ambar Castillo | Washington City Paper

When the District shut down last year, Black and Latina teens in D.C. had to step up as caregivers to younger siblings and family members. A seventh grade girl confided in staff at the nonprofit Crittenton Services of Greater Washington that she was taking care of four children at home, one of them an infant, while doing distance learning. A high school senior who had been caring for a sick elderly grandfather witnessed him die while she was taking care of him.

“That’s a lot of stress on our young girls at a time in their lives where children should just be children,” says Siobhan Davenport, CEO of CSGW and an author who writes about equity issues affecting girls and women of color.

On this last day of Suicide Awareness Month, it’s time to reckon with the intersections of race and gender that impact the mental health of Black and Latina girls in the District. Suspected suicide attempts by girls aged 12 to 17 increased by more than 50 percent in February to March 2021 compared to the same time in 2019 and surged by varying degrees at other times throughout the pandemic, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data that looked at emergency visits nationwide. By contrast, suspected suicide attempts that led to ER visits among boys in the same age group increased by only 3.7 percent compared to the same period two years ago. ​​Race compounds the gender disparity in suicide attempts and suicides that researchers have seen as a silent pandemic. While the number of suicide attempts among White adolescents nationwide dropped from 1991 to 2017, the number of Black children attempting suicide increased. Suicide death rates among Black girls in the U.S. aged 13 to 19 rose by 182 percent from 2001 to 2017.

Girls of color are more susceptible than their White peers to face adverse mental health effects from the stress of pandemic conditions in the home. They are more likely to lose a family member due to COVID-19: Black residents in the District and across the nation have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus, as have Latinx people, in ways that can’t be solely attributed to socioeconomic status or underlying health conditions. They are also more likely to get worn out and strain other aspects of their wellbeing due to caregiving responsibilities, the New York Times recently reported. A 2020 World Economic Forum report sheds light on how COVID further contributed to gender inequities in caregiving among women and girls

These COVID-era findings reflect more of what CSGW had found in their Declare Equity For Girls Report back in 2017. The nonprofit serves mostly young Black and Latina girls and their families, providing programs on life skills, healthy behaviors, and pregnancy prevention. CSGW had conducted focus groups with 71 Black and Latina girls from wards 5, 7, and 8, listening to these teens describe their experiences and expectations in and outside the home. Through listening sessions and surveys, together with national and global research on caregiving disparities, staff found that girls of color face more expectations for caregiving and other household duties than do both White girls and boys of color. Apart from suicidal ideation, staff found that 63 percent of girls in their program reported significant stress, 43 percent reported they are worried about their emotional health, and 50 percent reported feeling worried about their academic performance and the uncertainty of their future. 

Lessons from Crittenton on Helping Young Girls Manage their Mental Health

Davenport’s greatest hope is for greater mental health support that teens can access. 

“That everyone … who is in the ecosystem of our teen girls—be it your caregiver, your parents, our immediate family, your teachers, counselor, et cetera—that everyone creates that safe space,” she says.”So that they can … continue to thrive, knowing that they are being nurtured and cared for … being listened to.”

Davenport highlights a couple strategies that she as a mother and CSGW as a community have tried in order to support the mental health of young girls:

• Self-Care: Encouraging youth to identify and nurture their passions and hobbies. CSGW girls have taken up activities like cooking, arts and crafts painting, micro-entrepreneurship (developing lip glosses and body butters), and singing as ways to nurture themselves.

• Safe Community Involvement: A CSGW program leader facilitated an exercise where she invited her teens to make a Mother’s Day gift while socially distanced. “It was just a meaningful exercise to show the girls that regardless of how they’re feeling,” she says. “[Even though] we all can feel a bit helpless during these times, there are things that we can do to bring joy not just to ourselves, but to those around us.”

Boys Need Help, Too

While girls are disproportionately impacted by gender-based inequities that contribute to mental illness, boys also need support.

“As a community, we need to allow boys the safe space to share how they’re feeling during these times but also outside of these times,” Davenport says.

Davenport says she is always doing check-ins with her son. “There are times when I get one-word answers and then there’s times when he just opens up a floodgate. And I’ve learned to be patient either way,” she says. “So the one-word answer pretty much means that now it’s not a good time to talk. But he does get around to sharing with me how he’s feeling throughout all of this.”

While city officials seek to make schools as back to normal as possible amid a heightened outcry for greater COVID safety precautions from parents, teachers, and advocates, normalcy may not cut it for the other pandemic facing teens and girls of color. 

“Normal wasn’t always so good for everyone,” says Davenport of the mental health crisis. “And it certainly wasn’t always good for children and the teen girls that we serve from vulnerable backgrounds.” 


‘No Time to Be a Child’

— A poem by Azariah Baker, a high school student in Chicago
For the past year and a half, Jamese Logan, a 15-year-old in Lanham, Md., found herself looking after four children. Her aunt died of cancer in May, leaving her children, the youngest just over a year old, in the care of Jamese’s mother.
And when Jamese’s mother goes to work, it has been Jamese’s responsibility to look after her cousins, juggling their needs with her homework and virtual school.
For Yanica Mejias, a 17-year-old in Gaithersburg, Md., these last 12 months have been a huge financial strain. Her parents divorced in November, and Yanica, her mother and her 14-year-old sister moved into the basement of her aunt’s house. Yanica took on extra shifts at a burger restaurant to help keep the family afloat.
“It was kind of like we were starting from zero,” she said.
And Azariah Baker, a 15-year-old in Chicago, has been caring for her 70-year-old grandmother, who had a stroke at the start of 2020, as well as her 2-year-old niece. Her grandmother is the legal guardian for Azariah and her niece but since the stroke, which left her extremely fatigued with blurry vision and headaches, Azariah has done the heavy lifting at home. She would wake up every day at 7 a.m., make them all breakfast, then log on for virtual school at 8 a.m.
When school was out, she’d go to work at a grocery store. Then she’d come back home and cook dinner. She often felt overwhelmed. “I remember one night, I was making dinner and I was having a panic attack. I was crying, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and my heart was racing,” Azariah said.
“But then my alarm went off for something in the oven,” she said, and she put her own needs aside.
These three stories encapsulate the ways in which the pandemic has affected the lives of young women of color across the United States, even if they weren’t directly touched by the coronavirus. Black and Hispanic youth were more likely to have lost a parent or a family member to Covid-19. They have fallen further behind in school than their white counterparts, and they had far higher unemployment rates last year than older adults and young white women, even during the summer, when youth employment typically goes up. Some of those who held on to or found new jobs became crucial breadwinners because their family members were more likely to have been laid off.
Black and Hispanic teenage girls were also more likely than white girls and their male counterparts to shoulder care responsibilities at home, according to a report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. At the same time, they were leading racial justice demonstrations across the country, most notably last summer, channeling their energy into confronting and changing systemic inequities.
“Black girls were on the front lines of racial justice movements, they were essential workers and they were primary caregivers,” said Scheherazade Tillet, a founder and the executive director of A Long Walk Home, an organization that empowers Black girls in Chicago. “There’s no other group that was all three of those things at once.”
All of this has taken a psychological toll. In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a sharp spike in emergency room visits after suspected suicide attempts by girls ages 12 to 17 in the first months of 2021 compared with 2019. This is possibly because of “more severe distress among young females than has been identified in previous reports during the pandemic,” the report said, though the study didn’t break down the data by race.
A survey of over 2,000 young people, published in June by the nonprofit organization America’s Promise Alliance, found that 78 percent of girls ages 13 to 19 reported in the past 30 days at least one sign of decreased mental health, such as feeling distressed or being unable to sleep, compared with 65 percent of boys. A Long Walk Home found in a survey of about 30 girls that nearly 70 percent reported increased anxiety and an inability to sleep in the last year. Twenty-seven percent reported having suicidal thoughts. Crittenton Services, an organization based in Washington, D.C., and Maryland that supports girls of color, found that out of the nearly 400 girls in its network, 63 percent felt stressed, and half had trouble sleeping, according to an internal survey that was shared with The Times.
“This is the crisis that they have come through,” Ms. Tillet said. “So what systems are in place now to support their emotional and psychological needs?”
Behind the numbers are lives upended, dreams shattered, the burden of suddenly becoming a caregiver or a provider. A Long Walk Home found that many girls in its network felt like they’d lost their childhood, or as Azariah put it: “There was no time to be a child.” And as schools and some workplaces open their doors again, the burdens for these young women are still very present. They may even be greater.
But these are also tales of resilience, of girls who become leaders in their communities and rise to the occasion for their families, with creativity and determination buoying them through crises and chaos.

Jamese Logan

A 15-year-old student at DuVal High School in Maryland who takes care of four children under 10.


Photographs by Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Jamese’s aunt learned she had Stage 4 brain cancer in February, and she died in May. Since then, Jamese’s focus has been on taking care of her cousins. Child care for four children was impossible to find and would have been too expensive for Jamese’s mother, anyway.
For months, Jamese spent most of her days with her brother, 14, and cousins at home. The six of them made TikTok videos, played games and danced in the living room. Every now and then, she would treat them to pancakes made with a recipe she learned from her grandmother. She felt responsible for the happiness of everyone else around her.
“I wanted to make sure everybody wasn’t sad or angry,” she said. “I wanted to stay energetic and smiling even though my aunt had just passed.”
At the same time, Jamese found it increasingly difficult to focus on schoolwork, and the spotty Wi-Fi at home didn’t help. Her grades started falling.
In May, she reached out to Kahlil Kuykendall, a program director at the Crittenton support organization, for emotional help. Ms. Kuykendall, whom some girls call “Mama Kahlil,” made frequent visits to Jamese’s home to check in on her. She also arranged to send Jamese’s family food and money for her aunt’s funeral.
Eventually, with the help of her teachers and Ms. Kuykendall, Jamese’s grades inched back up, and she spent the summer getting her reading score to where it needed to be.
Going back to school in person this month has been “rocky,” she said in a recent phone interview. In the background, her cousins were screaming and crying for lunch. The chicken sandwiches she had made were still cooling in the oven.
Normalcy, Jamese said, would take a little bit of time. “I’m trying to figure out a way to balance it all out,” she added.

Yanica Mejias

A 17-year-old at Gaithersburg High School in Maryland who feels the need to support her family financially.

Photographs by Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Yanica used to live in a house where she and her sister had separate rooms. But almost overnight, her parents’ divorce forced Yanica, her mother and her sister all into one room, in the basement of an aunt’s house. Yanica’s job at a local burger drive-through that was once just for “fun” became a lifeline. She now pays her own phone bills and chips in for the car insurance.
The coronavirus pandemic derailed Yanica’s plan to take a course last year to become a certified nursing assistant, so she did it this summer, virtually. Her dream to go to the University of Miami after high school is dependent on how financially stable her family will be at the end of the year — otherwise, Yanica said, she’ll take a two-year course at a community college. 
At the burger place, Checkers, Yanica was promoted from cashier to shift manager, taking on more responsibility when the business couldn’t retain workers or lure them back. She made sure that everyone was wearing a uniform and that the store was cleaned. She closed at the end of the day, counting the money and putting it into the system.
Between schoolwork, her job, nurse assistant training and her parents’ divorce, she had less and less time to spend with her friends. When she looked around, they seemed to have had an enjoyable summer break with their families.
“Sometimes my sister would ask me if I wanted to go to the pool with her,” Yanica said. “But usually when she wanted to go, I had to work.”
Yanica recently graduated from her nurse assistant program. She didn’t tell many people in her family because, she said, the ceremony was virtual and it felt underwhelming. “I kind of just kept it to myself,” she said. She didn’t even dress up for the virtual ceremony, or take screenshots of the event.
Other matters demanded her attention the week she graduated: School reopened in person, and her family moved again. She quit her job because of scheduling issues, but now she’s doing a paid internship at a day care.

Azariah Baker

A 15-year-old at George Westinghouse College Preparatory in Chicago who juggles school with caring for her grandmother and toddler niece.

Last summer, Azariah felt compelled to participate in the racial justice movement that was sweeping the country. In an after-school program, she and her friends brainstormed practical solutions to systemic inequality and realized that the recent closure of a local grocery store during the pandemic meant that their neighborhood had limited access to fresh food.
With the help of a nonprofit organization, the 12 high schoolers tore down an abandoned liquor store and opened a fresh produce market, sourcing fruit, other food and flowers from local suppliers across Chicago. Azariah and the other students work there three times a week.
To balance it all, Azariah multitasked, helping customers one minute, finishing her homework in the corner the next. “I’d have my computer on the counter while I’m setting up a flower station,” she said. Her peers started calling her “Miss President” because of how much she could handle with grace. Azariah was also doing interviews when the story of the new grocery store got picked up by local and national press.
But behind the scenes, she was growing worn out, particularly with virtual school and the caregiving — for her grandmother, whom she calls “mom,” and her niece — at home.
“The reality is that a large portion of the time, I’m not OK,” she said. “There’s a part of me that wants to have fun and be a kid and take up space.”
Azariah is now back in school in person. As great as it has been to see friends again, the transition has been stressful. “I live 20 miles from my school,” she said, and the commute means she has to be up by 5 a.m. at the latest. “I am also overwhelmed trying to keep up with schoolwork, go to work after, and I worry about my mom’s physical and mental health.”
In the slivers of time that Azariah had to herself, she wrote a poem:

I would like to write a poem to honor my girl/friends

to the ones who pushed pins into their skin

and the ones who were forced under someone else’s

to the ones who smile in the midst of a battle zone

and to those who carry the battle zones in their hearts

to the ones that always look for something to smile about

with their broken eyes and

eyes that don’t grow weary and

eyes afraid to close

This is a poem to the black girls who have cried about being a black girl

Who filled their bodies with hate and envy and disgust

Hate, and envy, and disgust

Hate, and envy, and disgust


Black girls deserve to be children.

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Alisha Haridasani Gupta is a gender reporter covering politics, business, technology, health and culture through the gender lens. She writes the In Her Words newsletter. @alisha__g

Social Justice in the Classroom: How a Restorative Justice Framework Can Prepare Teachers and Staff for the New School Year

Siobhan Davenportl |

I was recently appointed to the Montgomery County Taskforce on School Safety. Alongside Councilmembers Will Jawando, Craig Rice, and other community leaders and students, we will craft a roadmap to police-free schools and safer learning environments for youth. 

This issue is personal to me. Not only am I the parent of two teenagers, but Crittenton works with Black and Brown teen girls who live in communities with the highest incidents of poverty and violence in our region. In our Declare Equity for Girls Report—a landmark study that revealed the obstacles girls face in achieving education equity, girls shared that their school environments were not conducive to learning and identified persistent bullying and difficult interactions with teachers and staff as some of their primary concerns. 

Safe and supportive environments, whether at school, home, or in the community, are essential to unlocking the potential of our youth—no matter their backgrounds. Here’s how to use a Restorative Justice Framework to create safer schools and communities for our teen girls as they prepare for the new school year. 


“Bad vibes everywhere! Negativity is everywhere in the school building. Nobody can get along. It’s always something with somebody.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Restorative justice seeks to repair damaged relationships. Before any learning takes place, administrators must first acknowledge that the relationship between staff and students is damaged. Prior to the pandemic, the trauma that some youth experienced in the community manifested as difficult behavior in the classroom. Teachers and staff bore the brunt of these interactions on top of demands to perform at underfunded schools in challenged communities. The result was despair. Now, after a global pandemic and an emotionally exhausting school year, we should expect students and staff will bring some historical trauma and current frustrations into the classroom too.  


“The teachers are always talking about ‘you have to respect them.’ You have to respect me if you want respect.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Trauma-informed care starts with creating a safe space. Safe spaces create cultures of mutual respect. Administrators can mend their relationships with students by establishing new dynamics with each other. Acknowledging the leadership of another person is crucial to fostering respect. At Crittenton, we position our program coordinators to become the trusted and caring adult who is a partner in a girl’s success. They do this by seeing and respecting teens as experts in their lives. Girls are then excited to be a part of Crittenton’s sacred sisterhood and activate their inner leader. A similar experience can be replicated in the classroom. The most successful educators create safe environments to learn and recognize the leadership of teens to interpret or reimagine information to deepen their learning. 


“I don’t have any negative feelings towards my school because after a while, you just zone out.”– A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Restorative Justice Framework contends that everyone has a personal responsibility to restore the relationship and create a better future.  We open every cohort with a group-building activity. A simple yet effective activity is Group Agreements. Group Agreements maintain the structure and order of the group and also encourage personal responsibility to the cohort. Teachers can interpret this exercise for the classroom. Create space for students to write their desired rules, needs, and expectations of the classroom to do their best learning. Once the class has created a comprehensive list, give students an opportunity to decide agreements are necessary. Also, give the class a chance to suggest consequences for breaking the agreements. Simple exercises like this give teens a chance to express themselves, any hidden needs, and also feel ownership and autonomy in their education. 


“The drama stops people from learning.”– A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

Toxic learning environments shut students down. Administrators, teachers, and school staff must work to repair the culture of negative schools to reignite the desire to learn. Restorative justice acknowledges that all damage cannot be repaired; however, change must begin immediately and fully for parties to gain their self-respect and respect for others. Adults have control over the following: providing students with adequate school supplies and better-funded schools, ensuring staff is trained in culturally competent teaching practices and undergoing unconscious bias and gender-bias training which impacts academic performance. I also recommend increasing the number of mental health specialists and trauma-informed counselors to show commitment to providing the proper care and resources needed to meet the needs of students and to transform the school culture.


“One of the positive things about my school is some of my teachers’ support and give tough love on the bad days.” – A Crittenton girl from the Declare Equity for Girls Report

The restorative justice process ends with reintegration. Parties must contribute to and collaborate on a new path forward. Teens will need time to reintegrate into structured learning and social environments with school staff and their friends. Administrators cannot assume that things can or should go back to normal. In DC alone, more than 40% of students are considered at-risk youth. Additionally, our internal needs assessment revealed that 22% of girls took on additional caregiving responsibilities during the pandemic. Returning to normal is not an option. The old normal resulted in poor academic achievement, discriminatory discipline, and ultimately the push out of Black and brown girls in schools. The new normal must be better for Black and brown teen girls and we must engage them in developing solutions that heal their trauma and match their current and future needs.


Teens Are Experts of Their Own Lives: A Podcast

President & CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, Siobhan Davenport, joins Daniel Bauer from Better Leaders, Better schools to share her insight into why teens are experts of their own lives. Listen in as they discuss:

  • Understanding barriers that girls face and teaching action advocacy. 
  • Creating safe space and suspending judgment as an intentional move as an organization.
  • The key to building world class culture with one question.
  • Reflection for leaders to help navigate and engage at school and at home.
  • Serve the whole child by suspending judgment with specific staff training. 
  • Evolution of a sacred sister circle-hood. “Meet girls where they are, but don’t let them stay there.”

“Let Teens Lead. As adults, we have wonderful experiences in our lives and we get to a point where we say, ‘Do this, do that, do the other.’ We forget that teens are the experts in their own lives. They come with so much experience and they know what they need, and we can be a support to them and get the services that they need.” – Siobhan Davenport

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How To Prioritize Your Teen’s Mental Health And Wellbeing.

As a mother to a teen girl and a leader of a nonprofit that’s helping our Black and brown girls navigate this pandemic, I see daily the importance of prioritizing the emotional wellness of our children. As parents, we must provide the tools, community, and support systems to help maintain our teen’s mental health and wellbeing for them to overcome challenges and thrive.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we’ve all been facing, and teens are feeling the fear, strain of uncertainty, and the stress of competing at school, work, and extracurricular demands more than ever.

J.R. Celeste, founder & publisher of Successful Black Parenting Magazine, interviews Siobhan Davenport about the mental health of our Black girls and the effects of the pandemic.

“When You make space for teens to self-advocate for their personal needs, You create an environment where they feel safe and confident enough to use their voices and articulate their desires.”

They need help, but sometimes youth lack the skills and opportunity to communicate their needs. You can start by creating space for this at home. In recognition of Minority Mental Health and Awareness Month, here are some tips and best practices for parents to continue supporting teens’ mental health and wellness.

Foster a safe, non-judgmental space that inspires your teen to share what’s on their minds

Our Black and brown children are often looking for an opening to express themselves. You must keep at the forefront of your mind that youth voices matter and their experiences are real and valid. If you create an environment where kids believe their perspectives don’t matter, they may find it difficult to share their deepest concerns with you. You have to model for your children that you care, and show them what active and respectful listening looks like in conversation. They can carry these skills from home to school.

You can create the opening by asking specific questions about their day (for example: “How was class today with teacher X?” versus “How was school today?”). Asking more specific questions can help get to the core of what may be pressing or heavy for your child at that moment. Welcome and encourage frequent dialogue for your teen to express themselves to you. The more you keep an open mind, the more it builds a trusting relationship.

Encourage your teens to focus on the things they can control, even when life feels unpredictable

Help your children to identify what they can control in their lives. This includes helping them understand how to break down larger blocks of homework into smaller achievable goals, structuring manageable schedules, especially if they are engaged in multiple school and extracurricular activities. It can be simply directing them to keep their personal spaces in the home organized, as well as helping them ensure that family spaces and tasks are organized as well.

Show them that we also have control of taking care of our minds and bodies. This can be as simple as eating the healthiest food available, incorporating physical activity into each day, and getting consistent sleep — specifically, eight to ten hours of sleepper night as experts have long recommended for teens. Integrating routines will provide consistency to help keep teens’ mental health in check. These organizational skills not only provide structure but also help alleviate stress to maintain your teen’s mental health and wellbeing. It prevents young people from becoming overwhelmed when all of their “to-dos” come at them at once.

Encourage teens to practice self-advocacy and ask for help from adults and their peers

You can aid your teen in developing the skills and confidence to advocate for themself at school, out in the world, and at home. Being able to express their needs and desires is essential to them feeling valued. Asking questions and creating space for teens to first identify and then share what they are feeling, or what they need, helps them to feel as if they have a little more control over their experiences. I also have to spend more time listening to see how my daughter is working through challenges, instead of being so quick to offer solutions.

When you make space for teens to self-advocate for their personal needs, you create an environment where they feel safe and confident enough to use their voices and articulate their desires. In turn, this empowers a confident parent, equipped with the skills to be in dialogue with their children while honoring youth voices.

It’s been a tumultuous 16 months, and we need to make sure that our kids can recover. As a parent, it is imperative to create adequate spaces and support systems for your teen’s mental health and wellbeing. You can start some of the work to create spaces at home, but you’ll need every participant in your children’s learning ecosystem — schools, summer learning programs, youth-serving organizations, parents, families, and communities — to play a part in the recovery process so your children can reach their full potential.

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