Women’s Fund mentoring program making a difference
by MaryBeth Matzek, Women’s Fund Volunteer
Success is all about connecting with the right person at the right time.
That’s the thinking behind ConnectHER, a Women’s Fund mentorship program designed to create and strengthen connections between women through learned and shared experiences.
As part of ConnectHER, mentees are introduced to women in the community who have been trained to guide and support young women as they work toward their personal and professional goals. The mentors, in turn, provide guidance, support and encouragement to young women as they work to
achieve their goals.
“Meeting with my mentor gave me hope that things will get better,” said Mari Leon, who was partnered with mentor November Behm. “Knowing she was once where I was and to look at her now was inspiring.”
Mentees like Mari were graduates of the Starting Point 2.0 and EmpowHER programs, and the intention was to provide them with mentoring to help them as they worked to meet the goals they’d set for themselves, said Amanda Louden, grants and program coordinator at the Women’s Fund for the Fox Valley Region.
“We wanted to be intentional in how we set up the matches,” she said. “From there, the women met for an hour each week for 16 weeks. We really wanted to provide continued support to young women.”
For November, who was partnered with Mari, participating in ConnectHER was a way to give back to the community. A Starting Point graduate herself, she was honored when asked if she could serve as a mentor.
“I learned a lot by being a mentor. One of the biggest things that I learned is that not everyone has the same goals and don’t go about trying to reach them the same way, which is fine,” Behm said.
November and Mari set up a time each week when they would meet. “I could tell she really needed someone to talk to and talk things through with. It was an amazing experience,” she said, adding that the two still stay in touch even though they’ve completed their participation in the program.
As the first session of ConnectHER wrapped up, Louden said it received great feedback from both mentors and mentees.
“Many said they would continue on with their friendship,” she said. “The ConnectHER participants all felt like part of a larger community. Mentorship is all about making connections.”
The next cohort of ConnectHER will begin in January 2022. Women interested in participating as a mentor or mentee are invited to submit an online application.