Crittenton CEO and President, LaTara Harris, joins Elena Russo to address the challenges Crittenton girls face and how Crittenton’s programs help them navigate obstacles from access to educational opportunities to pregnancy to healthy relationships.
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.”
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.
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.”
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES, October 18, 2023 /EINPresswire.com/ — 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 email@example.com for a press pass.
For any questions or press inquiries, please contact Abby Saturni at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.crittentonservices.org/contact/.
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 https://www.crittentonservices.org to learn more about our programs.
Crittenton Services 135th Celebration – Kick Off Recap
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 FACE A LACK OF MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES
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 ARE DEALING WITH UNTREATED GENERATIONAL TRAUMA
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 FEEL PRESSURE
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).
OUR GIRLS NEED A BREAK
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.
ALL GIRLS NEED TO SPEAK UP
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.
Since beginning our work in 1887, Crittenton Services of Greater Washington has supported teen girls and women.
We will continue to support the entire teen girl through informative non-judgmental education and trauma-informed care. We stand with all women today and we feel the pressure, fear, and anger with you.
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.
“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 email@example.com.
GOLDMAN SACHS ONE MILLION BLACK WOMEN ANNOUNCES LATEST ROUND OF INVESTMENTS, PARTNERSHIPS AND GRANTS TO KICK OFF 2022
- 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.
Congratulations to the Crittenton Services of Greater Washington Class of 2021! We wish you good luck on your journey ahead and we look forward to celebrating your future achievements.
To download your copy of this year’s yearbook, click the button below.
Combatting Racism & Inequity: A Call to Action for Teen Girls and Their Families from Siobhan Davenport, President & CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington.
You may know me as the President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, an organization focused on the well-being, safety, equity and bright futures of our 600 mostly Black and Brown girls living in DC and Montgomery County, MD.
But I am also a Black woman and mother of a Black teenage daughter and son and the issues of racism, inequality, and police brutality against Black and Brown people that are now so publicly discussed are also deeply personal. I fear for my children’s safety as they perform mundane and daily activities – going for a run in our mixed race community, wearing a hoodie while running errands or bird watching in one of the beautiful parks – all innocent activities that, with just a phone call to the police, can become dangerous and life threatening.
And yet, even during this time of public pain and protest, I have hope.
I have hope seeing Crtittenton girls, their friends, neighbors and the world using their anger and fear to lift their voices and march in our streets to protest the the racist murder of an innocent Black man, George Floyd and the long line of Black men and women —Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown—who died at the hands of those who are sworn to protect and serve all Americans.
I have hope because I work with a team of dedicated professionals who create the trust and safe space for Crittenton girls to understand and empower themselves to overcome the daily inequities of racism, sexism and classism that they encounter in school, work, on public transportation and just about every other aspect of their daily lives.
I have hope in the network of support for Crittenton and the many peaceful protests calling for an end to structural racism. I know that Black and Brown people cannot change systems by ourselves and that we need the actions of White allies so that all Americans feel safe and have access to opportunity in our country.
A Call to Action
We are at an important moment in time. I am calling on the larger Crittenton community to come together in support of the voices of Black and Brown girls as we seek the systemic change essential to ensuring an equitable society. We all have a role to play and, having been asked by many in our community, have included concrete actions we can take to continue the change we all support.
Hear from Teen Girls
We invite you to join our virtual High Tea: Talk With A Teen Girl on Thursday, June 25th to have a much-needed open conversation with our teen girls. It is an opportunity to hear directly from and partner with our Black and Brown teen girls to move forward on advocating for equity, including very timely issues related to education, equity and mental health.
Get the Facts
In 2019, we released a report, Declare Equity for Girls: It’s Time!, that is a call to action for our District of Columbia teen girls and the adults that care about them and their future. The report illustrates with hard, verifiable data, the harsh inequitable realities that our teen girls face. Read and share this report with your network so you have a shared understanding of why the systems need to change.
Change happens when we take action and helping to educate and encourage our youth to identify a cause they feel passionate about and then translate that passion into votes for elected officials that support policies to address racism, sexism and classism.
When We All Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American. There are opportunities for adults and families to be Voting Squad Captains and separately, for high school teens to engage (and even hired) in their National Student Ambassador Program.
Staying Connected: Creating Change
The Crittenton community knows that the not-so-secret sauce to our success is that every team member cares about every teen girl we serve. Being a caring adult — centering and supporting others — is what we are each called to be not only for Crittenton girls, for the next generation and for the Black and Brown communities facing systemic racism, sexism and classism.
Grateful for your support and friendship as we commit and recommit to the change we collectively seek.
|Crittenton Community, |
I am deeply touched by your generosity toward our teen girls and their families. Thank you for your kindness of giving to our Giving Tuesday Covid-19 Emergency Fund. Since March 13th, we have continued virtual service to our girls and helped to serve their families, including 375 adults, children and babies. We have also provided resources to those who have contracted or are recovering from COVID-19.
I’m so proud of our team, who practice the mission, and are a source for factual information, comfort and continuity for our teen girls. We are grateful to be in a position to help provide some relief for our girls and their families during these uncertain times. I appreciate you greatly helping us in reaching our goal of raising an additional $5,000 to match the $5,000 that we received from the V&S Foundation. These funds will go a long way in helping our teens and families during this crisis.
Thanks to your generosity, in partnership with HHS – SON, Victims’ Rights Foundation, Gandhi Brigade and Small Things Matter, we delivered much needed food essentials and hygiene products to 100 families yesterday afternoon.
Siobhan Davenport, President & CEO
April 22, 2020 5:45 PM EDT
Subscribe to Outbreak, a daily roundup of stories on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on global business, delivered free to your inbox.
Clarissa Garcia began her internship before COVID-19 hit. Her job at WishSlate Inc., an e-commerce app, was focused on PR and media relations. Unsurprisingly, her tasks quickly rendered incredibly difficult due to the immense focus that the media is having on the virus.
“It’s been pretty frustrating for me,” she considers. “I’ve had no success so far”. But while difficult, this unique situation is giving her an unexpected insight in navigating a start-up during a crisis. Tuning into weekly Skype meetings with the company’s CEO has kept her well informed as to how the company is navigating everything. “I find it helpful, and it keeps me and the rest of the interns engaged,” she says.
Interns like Garcia are used to work hard to prove themselves in temporary positions, but doing that remotely—and in the middle of a global health crisis—definitely add to the challenge. Some of the high schoolers, higher education students, and those who are in full-time, post graduation internships during the school year are lucky enough to make the remote transition. Others are even more fortunate, with their employers offering full-time positions upon graduation. But many are completely left without the experience—and sometimes money—they counted on having.
Laina Milazzo, a second year law student at Touro Law Center, was working as a legal extern at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office in Massachussetts, in the district court bureau. Once COVID-19 hit, all externs were told not to return until further notice. The next day, the courts closed indefinitely. “Since it was an externship we get credit for, they needed to find somewhere for us in order to actually receive credit for all the work we had already done,” says Milazzo.
She was reassigned to the appeals bureau, which allowed her to do research assignments from home. And she’s adapted: “The research is so different from the work I was doing in the district court bureau,” she says. “But now I have hands-on experience in two totally different bureaus—and I think overall it’ll help my career.”
Some of the students in Milazzo’s class weren’t able to switch to another department. Although they won’t substitute the hands-on experience of an actual internship, their professor is creating new assignments for them to do in order to still gain knowledge and receive credit for the time they put in already.
Zaria Wilson faced a similar disappointment. A graduating high school senior, she’s been interning at the National Institutes of Health in the Department of Cellular Development and Neurobiology since last June. With her work taking place completely within a lab, the internship had no way to translate to remote work. Plus, her schedule was tied to her Maryland-based school, so the day it shut down, the internship ended.
While Wilson is fortunate to have interned since June, she’s being proactive to make up for the last few months at the lab that she’s losing. “I’ve been doing my best to make up for the last months of the internship by doing some online courses and staying aware of the science field and biology.”
However optimistic, adapting may seem too far-fetched for some. Wilson is worried about how losing her internship stipend will affect her paying for college. While keeping up with her reading and online courses, she’s applying for scholarships. And Sammy, who had graduated from high school last June, wouldn’t be starting college until the fall.
He had been working as an intern in an investing firm in New York City for less than a month when his office was suddenly shut down due to COVID.19. Since then, Sammy hasn’t worked for them, or for anyone else, for that matter.
“I know that people like me (interns) are going to be amongst the last to be hired back,” he fears. “I hope that my school will be well equipped to deal with helping us find opportunities. There aren’t really many for me to pursue right now.”
Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is fueled by subscribers. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.
Dear Crittenton Friends,
Last Thursday, we co-hosted The COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall for girls and gender fluid youth of color with Black Swan Academy, YWCA National Capital Area and DC Coalition for Girls. We learned so much from Dr. Mariam Savabi, MD MPH and Necole D. Martinez and, especially, all the girls and gender fluid teens who were honest about their challenges and insightful about solutions.
Our time together was inspiring and informative, yet a reminder that the crisis we face is much graver for it has exposed the fragility of systems that have not worked for decades for the communities in which we serve. Though local governments and schools have responded as best as they are able, this pandemic is devastating to vulnerable families. Yesterday we asked the teens “what can we do?” And they answered.
They shared real mental health challenges: the struggles with self-isolation, of not having a schedule, of worrying about their parents, their community and missing the comfort of predictable routines.
They shared frustration with school: the challenges of dealing with uneven expectations and access to technology and teachers, of balancing school with new home responsibilities.
They shared their solutions: including the need for access to masks, hygiene and required products; of safe housing for community members who need to be quarantined and also for the homeless. They had ideas of how the government can be responsive, of how caring adults can encourage, how parents can access resources, of how together, we can create a community of care. And in their telling they showed us a way forward, a way we can work together to connect, encourage and grow these next generations of people.
At Crittenton we see a way forward. Core to our success is a caring adult providing judgement-free support, information, recommendations and referrals. While this has been essential to program delivery it is proving to be vital to responding to the current crisis. As have partnerships. We have an opportunity to work together, activating on Black Swan Academy’s call to action by signing the survey. LINK HERE http://thepeoplesdemandsdc.com/
At Crittenton we will continue to support girls in group and individually, make referrals and recommendations to the resources they need. We will test the idea of a senior-only group to address some of the real loss seniors are feeling as their graduations are canceled and colleges possibly postponed. We will continue to collect data on the individual and collective needs of 600 girls with a focus on their safety and mental well being. And we will continue to connect with incredible partners like you.
I look forward to connecting with many of you in the days and weeks to come as we navigate the unknown change and if we are persistent (and a little lucky), real opportunities to create real change for girls of color in the DMV.
President & CEO
PS: Check out our Virtual Town Hall and hear for yourself the challenges girls and gender fluid youth of color are facing by listening to the recording HERE. (Access Password is L8^&11.7)
By Siobhan Davenport
April 17, 2020
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 crisis has shaken us all up. The very fabric of life as we know it has been transformed into a new, less favorable normal. As the dynamics of our country have changed with lockdown and stay-at-home orders, so too have the dynamics of home life. Parents are working from home, furloughed, or newly unemployed. With school closures, children—from daycare to college-aged—are home too. Families are juggling the tall task of finding a new balance, with limited resources, and heightened anxieties.
What is also clear, is that individuals across the country are feeling the consequences of these changes to varying extents, and in varying ways—and oftentimes those experiences are closely intertwined with the intersections of their gender, race, and socioeconomic status. This begs the careful consideration of how the changing home dynamics brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are specifically and disproportionately impacting girls of color—and particularly girls of color from low-income communities. For one, it is having a huge impact on how girls of color are being asked to show up as everyday caregivers to keep their homes afloat.
Black and Brown girls are and have always been natural leaders in their schools, their families, and their communities. While continuously at odds with the structural and systemic barriers put forth by the many traces of racism and patriarchy in the U.S. system, they are innovative, ambitious, and solutions oriented. Because of their lived experiences, they are often wise beyond their years. We can all learn something in trusting their leadership.
But Black and Brown girls are also—too, often—the first to feel the brunt of the crisis in a way that, if not called out, can go unseen. In the world of COVID-19, girls of color are being asked to show up in new ways, with new responsibilities. Girls who still have to show up as students, in the new virtual classrooms that they may or may not have good access to. Girls who, though perhaps not or never employed themselves, are now at home balancing school and labor.
We’ve heard from so many of our girls—as young as 12 and 13—the new roles that they’re juggling while at home under lockdown. They have become the dominant care-provider for younger children in their homes, helping siblings adjust to home-school-style learning, aiding in the morning and nighttime routines, and assisting with homework help. They are supervising playtimes, changing diapers, mixing bottles, and putting babies down for naps. And they’ve been showing up for elderly grandparents, great aunts, and great uncles, too: supporting them in complex medication regimens, preparing their meals, aiding them in getting dressed and moving around.
And beyond just their homes, they are stepping up to support child care and elderly care efforts in their communities, for neighbors and community members who are essential workers, and must leave home during the crisis, with no other access to home care. Middle and high-school girls, unpaid, are working around the clock to support their families and communities.
While there is no clear solution to this dilemma, it’s important to understand the implications. It’s important for teachers and school leaders across the country to deeply understand that the circumstances of students across their virtual classrooms are not the same. Shifting education from classrooms to living rooms is not just a change in location—the COVID-19 crisis has changed the responsibilities and priorities of so many families, including young girls.While there are indeed homes across the U.S. where children can remain mostly-sheltered from the many impacts of this crisis—where a change in daily routine does not mean a change in duties or labor—that’s just not the reality for too many girls of color. So, let’s see girls for their leadership—when they rise to the occasion because they want to, or because they have. And let’s provide them with the additional support that they’ll need—mentorship, additional academic support, trauma-informed approaches to instruction, grace—to persevere through these times.
To learn more about Crittenton Service of Greater Washington and to support their work, please visit their website.
Siobhan Davenport is President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington and has more than 16 years of experience working with youth that face structural barriers. With her leadership, CSGW launched its Declare Equity Initiative, focused on the inequities that girls of color face in schools through D.C. Metropolitan Area.
You can read more about important updates and stories of our first quarter by downloading our newsletter below:
The CORONA-VIRUS outbreak has exacerbated many of the issues that educators and community leaders face under normal circumstances. Here’s how they can adjust their programming to support vulnerable communities.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
As federal, state, and local authorities work around the clock to mitigate the spread of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), those of us who work in education and other community-based sectors grapple with a new reality: How do we adequately care for the young people we’ve pledged to serve?
Identifying solutions is the top priority for Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. At Crittenton, we empower girls to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals. We work with nearly 600 young women from the 6th to 12th grades, many of whom face structural barriers at the intersections of their race, gender, and zip codes.
We are fully aware of the challenges and barriers our girls face under normal circumstances. Through research from our Declare Equity for Girls report, we learned from young women—the experts in their own lives—that school environments, home and community stressors, and high rates of absenteeism all contribute to low academic achievement. The COVID-19 outbreak has only exacerbated these issues.
Here are the key ways to ease the transition for the communities we serve.
1. Set and maintain a consistent presence and schedule
Prior to COVID-19, our program leaders ran weekly group sessions in schools with our girls, focused on leadership, advocacy, and social and emotional learning. We created space for girls to connect, learn, and thrive. Now, with D.C. schools closed, girls are adjusting to countless shifts in the normalcy of their lives—interrupted learning and diminished access to resources.
For many girls, they’ve been pulled away from the relationships that ground them. This comes with the backdrop of parents being furloughed, taking unpaid leave, or losing jobs, and families balancing the competing needs of childcare and parent-care in multigenerational homes. For all of us, crisis and uncertainty brings stress and anxiety that can be tough without adequate access to mental health services. At Crittenton, this is a time to show up with and for our girls now more than ever. We’ve continued our program in a virtual format during the shutdown in order to remain a stabilizing force in the girls’ lives. We’re meditating together, discussing self-care, and creating accountability groups. We’re working to bridge technology gaps so all of our girls can have this access and support.
2. Adopt multiple modes of communication
Inequities can grow when we’re all in crisis. The digital divide in the U.S. will leave many students behind as society transitions to remote life and distance learning. My team has resorted to email, texts, individual phone calls, video chats, and group chats with apps like House Party, to keep in regular communication with our girls in lieu of in-person contact. All modes are necessary because digital integration is limited and inconsistent within the communities we serve.
According to Pew Research, 26 percent of adults living in households earning less than $30,000 a year are “smartphone-dependent,” 46 percent lack a traditional computer, and 44 percent don’t have access to home broadband service. Thankfully, numerous telecommunications companies have stepped up to offer free internet service to allow more families to connect during the outbreak, but that is just one piece of the puzzle.
3. Be a resource for timely and credible information
In less than three weeks, the COVID-19 situation has devolved from “take precautionary measures” to nearly every state issuing shelter-in-place orders. It is easy to get lost in the abundance, speed, and accuracy of information. In our case, one of our girls posted in a group chat that she read on the internet that the coronavirus comes from Chinese food. Before school closures, another student shared that her class went into a frenzy after a student sneezed from seasonal allergies. Everyone, especially those of us in leadership positions, must be discerning with our words and the information we share.
At Crittenton, we’ve chosen to only share information directly published from our local government, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and trusted affiliate organizations. We find families want information about COVID-19 protocols, education plans, and meal distribution and other support sites should they experience an emergency. We’ve had 15 families, 115 adults, children, and babies run out of food and two students lose their jobs in less than a week.
Normalcy, reliability, and predictability are some of our greatest comforts in uncertain times. While we don’t know how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last, I have full confidence that my fellow educators and community leaders will do what we’ve always done—rise to the occasion.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
Siobhan Davenport is the President and CEO of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington. They serve over 600 girls in 20 school-based programs in the greater Washington area.
by Lydia Blanco
April 1, 2020
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington students (Image: Crittenton Services of Greater Washington)
America’s education system has been disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis. As a result of the new normal, underserved students and their families are heavily relying on educators, family support specialists, and agencies for educational support and access to basic essentials.
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington is a 132-year-old organization that supports 600 girls in the Washington metropolitan area. The organization’s mission is to empower teens to overcome obstacles, make positive choices, and achieve their goals through strategic programming and resources. The organization houses a team of researchers that focuses on equity for young women of color within the education system. In their latest study, The Declare Equity Report, the organization highlighted the disparities that young women living in vulnerable communities face like safety concerns within the household, and being distracted at school because of the need to assume adult responsibilities, and push out.
Amid the current health crisis, we spoke with Siobhan Davenport, president and executive director of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, about how she and her team are finding ways to engage program participants, creating digital communities/safe spaces during social distancing, and partnering with parents to help their children continue their education during this time of uncertainty.
Siobhan Davenport, President and Executive Director of Crittenton Services of Greater Washington
SHOWING UP FOR THE COMMUNITY
How are school closures impacting the young women that Crittenton serves?
During this COVID-19 pandemic shut down, we are specifically concerned about the young ladies that we serve and keeping them engaged in school. March 13th is when our schools were closed suddenly. And one of our funders reached out to us and we had a conversation about what role we can play just besides delivering our programs. We talked about some of the factors that we knew our teen girls face in their family, so they gifted us a $5,000 grant called The Emergency COVID-19 Funds. And immediately on that Friday, our girls were reaching out to us.
They wanted to ensure that we were still going to have programs because in some cases our program leaders are their trusted adult. They meet with them weekly throughout the entire school year in groups of about 15 to 18 teen girls. So, there’s a lot of trust in built up in those groups. And of course, it’s a safe space for our teen girls.
We immediately said, Yes, we will continue to deliver programs, we’re just going to have to do it a little bit differently and be creative in that way.
The COVID-19 crisis adds another layer of trauma and anxiety for many underserved communities. How is your team responding to the young women and their families who are facing new insecurities because of the school closures?
The girls were reaching out and were concerned about food insecurity. We had three girls who lost their jobs. Restaurants were closed and a lot of our girls work in entry-level jobs. And for our girls, those part-time jobs actually contribute to the well-being of their household. So, this is a major blow to the family.
Parents have reported to us job loss as well and reached out to say, ‘can we get emergency food and essential supplies,’ which we were able to do and thus far we’ve helped 40 families and 181 parents, children, and babies.
Our young ladies have reported inadequate Wi-Fi access or just simply not having a device computer in the home. Both of our school districts are looking at ways in which to distribute tablets, but we had to kind of fill in the gap and we let one of our families borrow a Chromebook because the dad needed to apply for unemployment benefits and didn’t have access to that.
CREATING SAFE SPACES
Crittenton Services of Greater Washington students (Image: Crittenton Services of Greater Washington)
School is a safe haven for many students and a reliable resource for parents as they work. What are some of the ways that the organization is helping students and their families adapt to being home together?
We have a very structured curriculum, and it just so happened that part of the curriculum currently is on what is a healthy relationship, and that means your family, your friends, and of course significant others. Our program leaders are putting a heavy emphasis on that.
We’re really focusing on healthy relationships and communication. The program is steeped in social-emotional learning core competencies. We talk about identifying emotions. We’re all at high emotion at this point in time. We’re intentionally starting each session with self-awareness check-ins.
Our program leaders are helping our students with self-meditation, deep breathing exercises, and challenging them to continue to practice that throughout the week and then report in through the group chat or when they’re on a Zoom call to talk about how they’re managing their stress in a positive, productive way.
Family support is critical during this time as parents and guardians adjust their lives to become substitute teachers, providers, and everything in between. How can organizations like Crittenton support families during these times?
A big concern for parents is that the school structure is being lost. Parents are depending upon teachers to be the source of help for their children. And now all of a sudden, they’re thrust in that role.
We have parents who have English as a second language. They’ve actually come to our program leaders to have them translate how to access information for their children. There’s a lot of responsibilities that parents are taking on. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to go in learning what the schools are doing, what our school systems are asking for, and be able to help parents and guide them as they try to navigate the website and access the work that their daughters are doing. We’ve been on multiple fronts trying to anticipate and be a source of trusted information. For our families and our teen girls.
STAYING CONNECTED DURING ISOLATION
At Crittenton, young women are able to build community. How is the organization maintaining that sense of connectedness during social distancing?
Part of positive youth development principles is letting the youth lead. When we initially started conversations with our girls, we talked to them about how they want groups to meet. We were experiential and just tried different methodologies of reaching the girls.
Some program leaders said, ‘I’m just going to switch my platform to Zoom whereas other program leaders have said, the girls said they don’t want to download anything else taking up more memory on their phone and they’re already on Instagram Live and we’ve had a great response reaching them there.
As it relates to social-emotional learning, how is Crittenton helping the young woman understand this national moment of crisis, with all of the different layers of trauma that are experienced?
Our program leaders have been having conversations with our girls so that they get a sense that this [the pandemic] is bigger than their community. That part of social awareness of social-emotional learning is key in building empathy.
It is our obligation to follow those social distancing rules. I know it’s inconvenient and it’s not how they want to communicate. They actually want to be in school. They are reporting that they are bored, want structure, and want to be able to see their friends face to face.
We’re trying to help them understand that we are actually doing each other a great service by maintaining the social distance.
If you are interested in learning more about the resources offered by Crittenton Services of Greater Washington, visit its website for free tools and resources.