Without positive role models, it can be difficult for young women to envision themselves being successful. But for Crossroads Academy sophomore Imani Berry, that all changed at Junior Achievement’s Future Women’s Leadership Forum. “I see now that women can do everything,” she says. “Every job in the world, a woman can do. Future Women’s Leadership Forum opened my eyes to new jobs I didn't think were possible. I learned that there are people out there who are trying to help me, and who want to see me fulfill my dream."
Imani isn’t alone in her transformation. Young women from high schools across the KC metro were paired with professional female mentors for a day of empowerment, mentorship and learning at the Future Women’s Leadership Forum on April 9, 2019.
“When I met my mentor, we clicked almost instantly,” says sophomore Mari’Sōl Johnson, who also participated in FWLF. “We were very similar. It was exciting to find someone who made me feel comfortable from the get-go.”
During the forum, students spent one-on-one time with their mentors and listened to a panel of expert women professionals during breakout sessions. This group interaction was a highlight for sophomore Julia Bond. “It was cool that we each got our own specific mentor, but all got to sit as a group,” she shares. “We had one-on-one time, but then we also got to meet a bunch of other people and hear different perspectives.”
Quiran Banks, also a Crossroads sophomore, formed a special connection with her mentor Klassie Alcine, Director of Corporate and Community Partnerships at Central Exchange. “She was so nice. I loved her. She told me what she did and all the steps that it took to get where she is today.”
Throughout the day, these young women learned important concepts that would determine their success in the near future. “The entire day consisted of us picking up different skills,” Mari’Sōl says. “I enjoyed learning how to manage money because I suck at saving! But I learned how to start doing it right now.”
In addition to financial and career and business-related topics, young women were educated on health and mental wellbeing in a session by Dr. Michelle Robin. “That was the biggest thing for me,” Quiran reflects. “It made me care about myself a lot more, my mental health and my body. These things are going to catch up to you at some point and then you're going to be stuck in a position where your health is declining. That really put things into perspective for what I need to change now.”
As professional women navigate the very real challenges of the gender pay gap and the glass ceiling, finding this kind of empowerment is priceless. “Future Women's Leadership really changed my perspective on the progress and work that women have put in,” Quiran shares. “Women had always been on the forefront, but they worked behind the scenes. They are finally being highlighted for the work that they do.”
Julia agreed. “Normally, when I think of banks, I just think of a whole bunch of old white men,” Julia explains. “But my mentor worked at one of the banks downtown. It's cool to see women like my mentor in the field and to know a woman in that field.”
Every young person deserves someone in their corner, and students found just that at FWLF. “When you have someone right there with you, helping alongside you,” Quiran says, “it doesn’t make you feel like you’re in this by yourself. You can always count on somebody else. It helps you go places and shows you that you mean something.”
“Future Women’s Leadership Forum showed me the importance of having older mentors,” Julia comments. “It was a really good experience to have people that have actually been through some of the stuff you have been through to listen to you.”
For Mari’Sōl, all the day’s lessons added up to a fresh, new perspective. “I learned things that I could apply to my life now and in the future,” Mari’Sōl adds. “Before, I wasn’t really thinking about the next step. But at Future Women’s Leadership Forum, I started to change my thinking.”
And for people who want to give back through Junior Achievement, Mari’Sōl has a message: “You shouldn’t be scared to be a mentor or a volunteer, because you don’t know how much of an impact you’re going to have on a young girl’s life. You could really change their perspective on everything. It can push them to be better than they were that day. So don't feel like you need to limit yourself when you really can make a change in someone else's life.”
When you give back to Junior Achievement, you have an impact on the next generation. Thank you for empowering young women like Imani, Julia, Quiran and Mari’Sōl when you support Junior Achievement.