Nikai Fondon, Youth Development Coordinator (left) & Christine Monska, YWI Program Officer (right)
Photo by Erin Long Photography
Nikai Fondon came to the Women’s Fund as an intern last summer and has been working with the Young Women’s Initiative program. Recently, she became an official, part-time staff member for the Women’s Fund and is now the Youth Development Coordinator. Nikai prepared a review of her past year working with the Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) and we want to share it with you.
The one word that comes to mind when I think of the overall impact of the Young Women’s Initiative is GROWTH. I graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management with an undeniable desire to make an impact on my community before achieving my goal of attending Graduate School. After navigating undergraduate extracurricular activities, exams, classes, and papers, I thought I was thoroughly prepared for the workforce. I just knew I had the tools to hit the ground running and do exactly what I did in college and in high school; excel. I knew I had the makings of a successful community leader.
There is an unspoken truth about adulting. This unspoken truth is that the world is ready for you to step up and meet your own potential. This has been continuously revealed to me in my time at The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts. Initially, I was brought on as an intern for the Young Women’s Initiative. The internship grew into an official part-time staff position and in so doing, taught me what real self-accountability, compassion, and responsibility meant.
Through creating marketing materials, representing the program at community events, gathering data, facilitating listening sessions and interacting with our Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) Members, I gained a sense of independence and empowerment. I got to use skills that I did not expect to use in my first job out of college. I developed stronger public speaking, networking, event planning and program design skills. Our curriculum is rich with real-world information that is not readily accessible to Springfield youth and pushes them to put action to their words and provides new knowledge which sets us apart from the area programs which are also focused on the advancement of this population. As the members of the YWAC were learning about philanthropy, public policy, and the various issues that are plaguing young women in their community, so was I. We learned together and facilitated change together which is an experience that I will forever be grateful for.
The YWAC girls have developed friendships with girls who think and act like them but come from very different backgrounds. This program has truly empowered the voices of young women –including my own–from the first listening session to the graduation of our first YWAC cohort. Every young woman this program has touched, even in the slightest, has had a chance to have her voice heard and is now inspired to do something more with not only their own life but also in the lives of others.