One of the best things about my job is that I get to share stories and experiences. My own, of course, but also the stories of all the great women I’ve met through Women in Consumer & Commercial Finance. Helping women across financial services find their professional footing is an honor and something I believe in deeply.
But the world is a bigger place. There are so many important stories out there from strong women facing down big challenges - women whose experiences do not include careers in financial services. I think it is critically important to share those stories, too.
Here are two stories I’d like to share - one from each of our Community Impact partners, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation (an organization devoted to creating pathways out of poverty for women in the Washington, D.C. region) and For the Good (an organization that helps to ensure that girls in Kenya can continue their education). We'd especially like to thank our Lead Community Impact sponsors, NCB Management Services and ERC BPO. Because of their generosity, we are going to be able to donate more than $10,000 to these organizations.
Stephanie Villanueva-Villar created her own non-profit, Your Girl For Good, to benefit young women of color in the Washington, D.C. area after having benefited from similar organizations. Here is her story in her own words.
Growing up, I was always the kid to sign up for free after school activities and events. I loved getting the chance to meet new people, try hands-on activities, and build lasting friendships. Unfortunately, as I grew older, there became fewer free or low cost after school programs for me to attend.
My freshman year of high school was especially bleak. My family couldn’t afford to put me in sports or music classes because the cost of the equipment was too high. At the time, my sister informed me of an opportunity at the National Museum of Natural History where they were offering a paid internship for high school students. I applied and, much to my surprise, I was selected.
That year has to this day been one of the most impactful periods of my life. Being surrounded by young kids of color who had similar backgrounds like mine made me realize that we all had the potential to be successful in any field regardless of what mainstream media had told us. My time at the Smithsonian showed me how important mentorship, STEM education, and safe spaces are for young kids of color.
My self confidence in applying to other programs skyrocketed after my time at the Smithsonian. I became part of Girls Who Code’s DC summer immersion program, Hackathons, Harvard’s MCC Youth Council, and the HerLead fellowship program. I realized that the reason I kept coming back and applying to new programs was because I loved being in spaces that allowed kids in marginalized communities feel like they had boundless potential, and were surrounded by mentors who provided them with guidance and support.
Your Girl for Good’s mission is to provide our participants with hands-on activities and workshops led by successful women of color in STEM, Art, and Political sectors. We held our first Summer Mentorship Program in Columbia Heights in the summer of 2017 and partnered with the ACLU, Emily’s List, the NIH, the Smithsonian, and other local DC area organizations.
Even now, our former participants have remained in contact with their mentors from our first program. One of our summer mentorship program participants, Farhana, met her mentor through Your Girl for Good. That mentor later wrote her college letter of recommendation. They remain close to this day.
In 2018, we applied for the Washington Area Women’s Foundation (WAWF) Rock Star Fund for DC-area women and girls who wanted to create change in their community. Later that year, we were selected to be part of the inaugural class of Rock Star Grantees.
The experience couldn’t have been better. The BluePrint for Action that we were provided with has tremendously helped Your Girl for Good incorporate important data and advocacy methods into our programs moving forward.
With the help and guidance from WAWF, our Rock Star Fund project went amazing! Young girls of color across DC gathered at the Public Welfare Foundation to have an open and honest discussion about the importance of mental health and building healthy relationships through our partnerships with SMYAL and Planned Parenthood. Through our painting and vision board making workshops, we were able to get our participants to focus on their personal aspirations and self-reflect. Our Art & Mental Health summit was a perfect way to end the summer as students return to school later this month. We here at Your Girl for Good are so excited for what is to come. We know that the future is brighter and stronger when people and organizations stand behind and support young women of color.
Justine Nasieku Munke, a young Maasai woman from Tanzania who dreams of becoming a nurse. Here is her story, as told by For the Good staff.
Justine lives in Kenya’s Loita Hills, a region of remote Maasai communities bordering Tanzania and the Great Rift Valley. Her father has three wives and sixteen children. When Justine enrolled in a secondary boarding school in 2019, she became the first girl in her family to begin high school. She was earning good grades but was forced to drop out when her parents couldn’t afford tuition for the second term. They began planning to find her a husband instead, the only other option they felt was available to secure Justine’s future.
For the Good staff met Justine in June, 2019. Her drive and potential were obvious and her intense yearning for an education was palpable.
“Due to lack of fees, I dropped from (high) school and stay at home," she told us. "I am therefore crying deeply in my heart. If I fail to go to school, I will get married, which is not good. This will make me not achieve my mission, goal and dream of becoming a nurse.”
Though our programs focus on solutions at the community level, we maintain a small scholarship program for promising students like Justine through the support of a generous donor. We found a local sponsor that paid off Justine’s school debt, providing her a partial scholarship and met with her father to share our belief that Justine would have a better future if she stayed in school and delayed marriage. As of October, 2020, Justine continues to do well at home and is eagerly waiting for the reopening of the schools to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
We've partnered with these amazing organizations because we believe it's important to support women and girls around the world and here at home - women and girls like Stephanie and Justine. If you're interested in finding out more about For the Good, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and in how Women in Consumer & Commercial Finance partners with them, visit our community partnership page. Learn more about the conference, which is December 8-10, here.