Young Women's

In October 2017, our Young Women's Initiative hit the ground running with the kickoff for the Young Women's Advisory Council.

About the Project

The Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) is a national multi-sector project aimed at creating sustainable prosperity for young women. YWI is being crafted by a coalition of eight women’s foundations across the United States. The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts is leading the Springfield Partnership, a unique pilot program that will produce systems change in our region’s largest city.

Data indicate that young people, and particularly young women, who are critical drivers of economic prosperity, are leaving our region due to perceived lack of economic opportunity.  The majority of Springfield residents are people of color and more than 30% of are under 20 years old. Single mothers head two out of every five families. When compared to eight cities of similar size, Springfield has the highest child poverty rate and the third-highest overall poverty rate.

Because poverty disproportionally impacts young women of color, effective interventions focused on this group can have community-wide positive impact. YWI is unique because it empowers young women as leaders to create a road map for their own future and catalyze positive change across the Springfield community, together.

The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts will work in close partnership with the City of Springfield and local human services, business, philanthropy, state government, education, and community based organizations to implement the YWI through the collaboration of two core groups:

  1. Young Women’s Advisory Council
  2. YWI Steering Committee


With success, the three-year Partnership for Young Women’s Progress pilot will allow partners to:

Create leadership and high-level decision making opportunities for young women, and compensate their efforts as part of a the Young Women’s Advisory Council.

Encourage the participants to become peer educators by launching philanthropy clubs or hosting workshops at their school.

Analyze available data, examine current investments, and identify where partners can make a lasting impact.

Create a public document with young women’s economic growth and empowerment recommendations.

Generate and fund a phased action plan for the region that will include re-granting partnerships.

Engage message research conducted by a leading national firm that will help us shape strategic communications aimed at creating a positive shift regarding young women.

Program Structure

The Young Women’s Advisory Council (YWAC) will be comprised of up to 20 young women ages 12 to 24. Members will be selected through a competitive citywide nomination process. Through a leadership development program and ongoing relationships with Steering Committee adult mentors, these young leaders will examine barriers, explore solutions, and make recommendations for policy and other improvements. They will acquire the skills to recommend grants that address the solutions they collectively propose, and it is the goal of YWI to secure funding to facilitate this grant making process. YWAC members will be also expected to develop concrete strategies to share their learning with their peer communities.

Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will be comprised of 15-20 volunteers from business, philanthropy, local and state government, education, and the community. The Steering Committee will nominate, mentor, and help to train YWAC members as well as advise them on prioritizing their recommendations. The Committee will also help identify and secure financial resources for grant making and other activities recommended by the YWAC.  Each Steering Committee member will be expected serve for the full three-year pilot and participate in mentoring, networking, and resource development activities; share news and accomplishments with stakeholders and the general public; review YWAC application materials and make recommendations for YWAC member selection; participate in program evaluation; connect Women’s Fund and YWAC Partner with experts in the field; help create opportunities for YWAC members to collaborate with other programs; and help to prioritize YWAC recommendations and implementation strategies.


The Women’s Fund seeks bright, self-motivated, and collaborative young women with a history of community leadership and personal achievement. Requirements include:

  • Must be a resident of Springfield, Mass.
    Young women who do not currently live in the community, due to enrollment in college, for example, may apply if they have lived a minimum of five years in Springfield and can commit to regularly attending meetings. 
  • Aged 12-24 years as of program start date.

Applications Currently Closed - Click for Events

Or send all application materials including application form, resume, recommendations, and any supporting documentation, to Christine Monska.

Founding Steering Committee members include: 

Ann Burke, Vice President, Western Mass. Economic Development Council
Michael Clark, Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Engagement, Office of Senator Eric P. Lesser
Dawn Creighton, western Massachusetts regional director, Associated Industries of Massachusetts
Ernesto Cruz, Legislative Aide, Rep. José F. Tosado, ninth Hampden District
Dawn Forbes DiStefano, Chief Finance and Grants Officer, Square One
Pattie Hallberg, CEO, Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts
Denise Hurst, Springfield School Committee
Justin Hurst, at-large member, Springfield City Council
Ronn Johnson, President/CEO, MLK Family Services
Chelsea Kline, Director of Arts and Humanities, Women as Empowered Learners and Leaders (WELL) Program at Bay Path University
Lydia E. Martinez-Alvarez, Assistant Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools
Rachel Parent, Chief Information Officer at MassMutual Corporate Technology
Suzanne Parker, Executive Director, Girls Inc – Holyoke
Dora Robinson, Retired President and CEO of the United Way of Pioneer Valley
Marian Sullivan, Communications Director, Springfield Office of the Mayor
Samantha Washburn-Baronie, Deputy Director, Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, Office of Economic Empowerment
Sarah Williams, SVP, Head of Financial Risk at Global Atlantic Financial Group

Collaborative Members

The National Collaborative of Young Women’s Initiatives (YWI) is a collective national strategy led by eight women’s foundations that leverages the resources of multiple stakeholders across multiple localities to address core structural issues that keep our nation’s low-income young women from experiencing robust health, economic security, personal safety, and leadership opportunities. In addition to the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, foundation partners include the Dallas Women’s Foundation, New York Women’s Foundation, Women’s Foundation of California, Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis, Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham, and Washington Area Women’s Foundation. Together, YWI projects in these different localities will create a unified lens and consistent language with which to discuss the structural issues that stand in the way of young women’s progress, then use that lens and language to reshape the local and national policy and philanthropic agendas from which the issues of young women have been historically absent.

“The YWAC initiative is a new, innovative way to showcase the talent and leadership skills of young women in the City of Springfield. We are excited to be a part of this initiative and look forward to working with the young women selected for the program.”
—Rachel Parent, Chief Information Officer at MassMutual Corporate Technology

About the MassMutual Foundation

The MassMutual Foundation strives to broaden economic opportunity for America’s youth and their families by investing in financial education for middle and high school students across the United States and economic development and education locally in Springfield, Mass. The Foundation is a reflection of MassMutual’s longstanding dedication to corporate citizenship and its unwavering commitment to the communities in which we do business. To learn more about the MassMutual Foundation please visit

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