Getting F.A.N.C.Y. in San DiegoTuesday, February 15, 2022 By Karen Pearlman
DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. staff members Chenel Slaughter (pink sweatshirt) and Tara Madden (rust colored long sweater) with girls at Jackie Robinson YMCANurturing and mentoring middle school and high school girls across San Diego County, helping them find their best paths in life is a passion for Tinesia Conwright.
Conwright in 2009 developed what she calls a “boots on the ground” nonprofit venture called Depositing Empowerment Through Outreach and Urban Redevelopment. DETOUR seeks to inspire girls of color to find their way during a time in life when they are typically most vulnerable.
It has been successful, too – with more than 70 percent of its graduates going into Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEM) fields in college.
“Advancing equity and equality for people of color in leadership has to start as early as possible,” she said. “It’s important that each girl sees that she is valuable and is here for a reason… and that taking advantage of opportunities is important if you want to maximize your impact in the world.”
Conwright and a staff of four guide the girls from grades six through 12 toward successful futures with DETOUR’s Focused And Naturally Confident Youth (F.A.N.C.Y.) program for teenage girls.
DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y’s long vision is to see equity and inclusion for teen girls of color in higher education and employment opportunities, especially in the STEM fields.
Internship program and Leadership academy
Four staff members lead two community-based groups, the DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. Ambassador Internship Program and DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. Teen Girls Leadership Academy.
The ambassador program helps place girls of color into community-based internships.
“The paid internship program also allows the girls to have an option to work for us on the F.A.N.C.Y. Teen Girl Expo, which is our workforce development piece,” Conwright said. “The goal is to give girls the self-esteem and confidence so they know they can go into leadership positions and change the world.”
The leadership academy seeks to connect and empower girls of color with leadership programs, creating higher awareness and further education. The academy also hosts empowerment events aimed toward increasing the self-esteem and confidence levels of girls.
“We teach them life skills and how to conquer teenage hood,” Conwright said. “We hold workshops on healthy relationships, conflict resolution and communication.”
On weekends, the group often goes on outings, from snowboarding to camping.
“We want them to have a safe space to form relationships with their peers,” Conwright said. “A lot of them go to schools where they may be the only black girl, that no one else looks like them on campus. They can feel at home with DETOUR support and feel comfortable, able to relate with other girls who know what that’s like.”
Seeking Corporate Sponsors and Partners
Working with the girls on foundational skills, DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. actively seeks corporate partnerships in what Conwright said is perhaps its most important link - providing a pipeline for girls of color into different industries.
While the group advocates for higher education, Conwright said it recognizes that college may not be for everyone.
Its annual report for 2020 said that despite the challenges of COVID-19, it worked with 82 girls within the community and at several public-school sites, albeit virtually.
During the pandemic, the program’s community outreach delivered “swag” bags to low-income apartment complexes in southeastern San Diego.
Its DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. in STEAM program allowed for Zoom training in technology activities, social media tutorials and public speaking – all of which culminated in a “Shark Tank”-like pitch event.
The nonprofit has also partnered in the past with Sylvan Learning Center for extra algebra assistance for girls in need and with SONY for a coding workshop or girls who wanted to learn about coding, robotics and design.
Conwright said the program functions like an extended family and follows the paths of program graduates to universities like SDSU, USC, UCLA, and UC Santa Cruz.
DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. has a presence and holds F.A.N.C.Y. meetings at three middle school campuses in San Diego County, Harley E. Knox Middle School, Horace Mann Middle School and Keiller Leadership Academy. Conwright said the group recently got a grant from the San Diego Foundation to work with 80 girls at Lincoln High School.
Conwright, 40, was born and raised in the southeastern part of San Diego. She attended elementary school in Hillcrest and remembers being one of the only Black girls at school.
She said her mother became a foster parent when she was 8, and Conwright said the mentoring she did with those younger siblings naturally led to becoming a mentor to young girls of color in the community.
She said she was part of a youth dance group when she was going to Morse High School that helped her find purpose. She graduated with a public administration degree from San Diego State and earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management and leadership from the University of San Diego.
She said she sees that sometimes girls of color feel like they’re just going through the motions and aren’t being heard, and concern about that keeps her focused on the work DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. is doing.
‘They Have a Voice, They are Important’
“We are teaching them that they do have a voice, they are important and that they do matter,” she said. “We help them take their lives a bit more seriously and show that they can have control over what they like and can create the future they want.
“We want to be a resource for them… a bridge between families and programs that are available to them. It’s important because it’s easy for kids to today to fall into the shadows. We try to reach them in middle school because by high school you risk losing them.”
FOR MORE COVERAGE: Click here to view the entire Celebrating Black Entrepreneurs Special Section from the Feb. 14 San Diego Business Journal.
Founder and Executive Director: Tinesia Conwright
Staff members: Five
Notable: The program has empowered more than 1,000 girls since its inception.
Tinesia Conwright with girls in the DETOUR/F.A.N.C.Y. class on Monday, Feb. 7 at Jackie Robinson YMCA in San Diego. Photo by Karen Pearlman.