A mentorship program based out of New York City has had one aim in mind since its inception: to uplift young Latinas without support access due to socioeconomic deterrents. Latinas On the Verge of Excellence, also known as the L.O.V.E. Mentoring Program, gives young girls the opportunity to excel beyond school with knowledge of mental, reproductive and physical health youths often face in secret.

This September, L.O.V.E. will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary of helping young Latinas grow not only through education but by emotional support and mentorship many underprivileged adolescents lack.

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2022 L.O.V.E. team
Courtesy of L.O.V.E. Mentorship Program

Founded in 2012 by Colombia native Claudia Espinosa, she felt the need to create a safe space for young Latina girls after learning of the severity of mental health challenges the Latina population faced while working as an intake counselor in for a suicide prevention program in Brooklyn. The direct conversations of suicide attempts with Latinas aged 13-17 struck a chord with the Harvard grad, inspired to create a sanctuary to quell the Latina teen suicide crisis ailing the state. 

“Our main goal is to provide social and emotional support,” Espinosa told mitú. “We really care about creating a strong sense of self for young women… Our mentors, many are Latina, many are New Yorkers, many are immigrants. That opens a space for conversation.”

Courtesy of L.O.V.E. Mentorship Program

The mentorship project, available both virtually and in person, allows Latina middle, high school and other female students, a safe community space where they can learn and be mentored by advisors who’ve had similar walks of life. Espinosa also noted that there is an intentional age gap of 4-5 years between mentors and students so they can feel more comfortable to verbalize their struggles.

That connection itself is powerful because oftentimes we are reluctant to share harsh realities with someone who can’t relate for fear of being judged or shamed. There is a certain bond when someone has lived the experience, that allows mentees to let their guard down and get to the root of suicide attempts, pregnancy or dropping out of school, instead of someone looking in from the outside. 

Courtesy of L.O.V.E. Mentorship Program

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adolencent Latinas have the highest suicide rate in New York City, reports NBC. One out of seven teenage Latinas attempt suicide — the second leading cause of death for Latina adolescents — at a rate higher than any other teenage ethnic group in the country.

A curriculum stemming from positive reinforcement, consistency and understanding, L.O.V.E. has helped over 2,000 students in 30 different public schools across NYC, per their website.

“We intentionally partner with schools in areas of New York where there is a high Latina population, and once we do, we implement our program into the academic year. We push into health education or other aligned classes where we have our program coordinators teaching the classes and our mentors to help facilitate,” Espinosa explained to mitú.

Not only does L.O.V.E. support Latinas in education, but mental health wellness and reproductive health resources are made available to those who need it. The founder continued to share that although the conversations she’s had with mentees are rooted in challenges, she says, “My goal is to show them, ‘Yes you can!'”

After 10 years of mentorship, L.O.V.E. will be hosting an anniversary ceremony at the Empire State Building on Sept. 15 to celebrate all their hard work, passion and commitment they’ve engraved into the New York Latina community.

To learn more or apply, check out lovementoring.org.