Sister 2 Sister fosters support for women of color

Tamara Scantlebury, Contributing Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Not all of society feels the need to be viewed as equal.

But, being a part of Sister 2 Sister, all women students of color could be sisters.

The mentoring program began the last Wednesday of January and joins women of color in a “sister circle” where talks surround topics relevant to Jacksonville University’s women of color.

Female faculty on JUs campus provide mentoring through conversations related to leadership, navigating race and gender, career development, combatting stereotypes, mental health and wellness, and much more.

JU assistant professor LaTonya Summers, whose specialty is clinical mental health counseling, is the founder of the Black Mental Health Symposium and the sponsor of Sister 2 Sister.

“I tried to find a name that would sum up the environment I hoped to create for women students of color,” says Summers. “Since the group is facilitated by women faculty of color who provide mentoring by sharing their stories, I thought Sister 2 Sister was perfect.”

This program has only been on the JUs campus for less than a month and is open to all women students of color, including Black, Latina, Asian Americans, Native Americans, etc. Its proponents say the program features a “judge-free zone” where women can tell their stories.

“Being a minority on a predominantly white campus is not easy, and mentoring is vital for retention,” Summers said. “Seeking mentorship from another faculty of color was one of my first goals. I figured if it was a struggle for me to find mentorship, it couldn’t be easy for students.”

Stephanie James, associate professor of educational leadership and director of leadership programs, explains what she wants the women students of color to take from this mentoring program.

“Sister 2 Sister was intentionally designed as a judgment-free, safe space of support for like minds, with like experiences to come together,” James said.

Supporters say Sister 2 Sister was created so that female students of color did not have to struggle to find mentoring on campus.

Summers said she hopes the meetings will become a regular occurrence on campus and says she’s encouraged by the level of participation so far.

“I simply wanted a starting point to see if there is any interest,” she said. “I was pleased that more than 20 ladies showed up last month for our first group. They did ask to meet more frequently.”

The program had more than 20 women students show up for its second meeting on Feb. 27, with the next scheduled for March 27 at noon in the Davis Student Commons.

Patrice Abner, director of student inclusions, helps with Sister 2 Sister, as well.

“I assist in promoting the program and supporting in other ways,” she said. “I believe there is great power in coming together for people to share personal experiences and feelings. It has been for nice for me as a staff person as well.”

Summers says she hopes the mentoring program will buoy women students of color and become a new network of support to help them thrive at JU and beyond.

“It helps to see minority women in leadership,” she said. “That way students find mentorship and aspire to reach higher.”