San Diego mentorship program uses FANCY approach to empower teen girls

June 8, 2019

Fancy Expo 2019

Our world is in desperate need of programs that introduce girls of color to fields they are not typically exposed to. DETOUR (Depositing Empowerment Through Outreach and Urban Redevelopment) sets out to dismantle stereotypes while building girls up with self-confidence and the desire to pursue their passions, regardless of today’s societal boundaries. Driven by positivity and leadership, the DETOUR vision is to see equity and inclusion for teen girls in higher education and priority sector employment.

The organization is bursting with contagious, motivational energy, which is expressed through dance, apparel and events. You can feel the confidence and drive of those involved—see for yourself on YouTube or Facebook.

DETOUR’s FANCY (Focused and Naturally Confident Youth) program is growing strong community leaders through their leadership academy and ambassador internships. In addition, the girls work with peers to provide live performances, STEAM (science, technology, engineering and math) workshops, college and career networking and more through their FANCY Expo—a free event for grades K-college.

The San Diego Workforce Partnership sat down with Tinesia Conwright, the founder and Executive Director of DETOUR. Growing up in a Southeastern San Diego neighborhood at the peak of gang violence, Tinesia recognizes the lack of opportunity for educational advancement and socio-economic mobility in areas facing large pockets of poverty. She is not only passionate about nurturing the growth of girls and developing them into our future leaders of tomorrow, but also recognizes the importance of community partnerships to advance this mission.

Here’s what she had to say:

Why is mentorship important, specifically for girls of color?

Mentorship is important for girls of color because exposure is an important piece of our personal and professional growth. Many of our youth do not have the luxury of participating in activities outside of their neighborhoods. If you are not exposed to opportunities and people who can help you graduate from college and transition into successful employment and/or entrepreneurship, then you may not know how to achieve these things.

If you have never seen a person of color work in priority sector employment careers paying livable wages, then the thought that you can get into those fields may not cross your mind. It may seem “too far away.” The lack of exposure limits your perception of what is possible for you and your future.

At the age of 16, I had the opportunity to join a local Christian dance team, the Steps of Praise, and we traveled throughout the country on the Nu Nation Gospel Tour. That exposure to the music industry, different people and different cities expanded my horizons beyond Southeastern San Diego. It allowed me to be aware of the world around us and how vast the opportunities are for motivated individuals seeking to inspire positive change.

Mentoring is truly a “wraparound” approach, where you must not only provide social and emotional supports, but also academic, mental and sometimes financial support. You also must consider familial structure and know what is going on with the girls at home. It requires a true 360-degree approach, which is challenging when it comes to funding these efforts.

Tinesia at Opportunity SummitCan you talk a little bit about how the partnership between the Workforce Partnership and DETOUR is helping to increase access and education for teen girls in San Diego County?

We know our net worth is in our networks! Increasing access for youth living in underrepresented neighborhoods requires a direct, targeted approach to expose them to opportunities that may not normally have or know about.

Our mission is to increase access to education and employment opportunities within in-demand career fields for girls of color through FANCY.

Workforce Partnership’s CONNECT2Careers has been a great program partner throughout the years by providing opportunities for our teen girls with no work experience. A few of our girls have had the opportunity to participate in paid internships at the County of San Diego and within other local companies.

This was instrumental as the program provided their first introduction to employment—allowing them to gain valuable experience within the workplace to add to their resumes and references to add to their job applications. CONNECT2Careers has also provided workforce development workshops to our girls to educate them on how to create elevator pitches, resumes and successful interview techniques.

How can the community get involved?

DETOUR is seeking employers, mentors and speakers for our FANCY leadership programs. Connections to professionals within priority sectors is vital and their involvement can play a huge role in the future of our girls.

Interested individuals can sign up to be a speaker for our school clubs, leadership academy or mentorship program. If there is an opportunity for us to tour your company to receive hands-on practical experience of what it is like to work in your industry, the the youth would love to participate!

In addition to our leadership programs, DETOUR hosts two events each year, the FANCY Awards Luncheon and the FANCY Teen Girls Expo. These events are the perfect chance for corporations to give back to our community and help us uplift, motivate and inspire young girls in San Diego County.

What needs to be done to open more doors for teen girls of color in higher education and priority sector employment?

According to the Workforce Partnership, STEAM occupations in San Diego are projected to grow an average of 10% by 2021, adding over 61,000 jobs and paying an average annual salary of $83,000. Despite this projected growth, girls of color face significant challenges getting into the field, including:

  • A lack of access to specialized education
  • Cultural stereotypes surrounding the professions
  • A lack of exposure to career pathways out of poverty

Employers and educators in these fields can reach out directly to partner with community-based organizations to initiate the growth of underrepresented teens of color.

DETOUR launched the FANCY In STEAM Initiative to increase the amount of girls of color studying and working in STEAM career fields. Our goal is to cultivate a diverse talent pipeline in STEAM inclusive of girls of color in Southeastern San Diego.

Since 2016, 100% of our girls were accepted into 4-year universities with over half currently studying STEAM majors. Tatiana, our Gates Millennium Scholarship winner, just finished her third year at Syracuse University majoring in forensic science!

To support DETOUR and the FANCY movement, you can donate through their website. To partner with DETOUR, contact Tinesia Conwright at (619) 750-1180 or email Tinesia@detourempowers.org.