Year One at Penn State

I graduated from Mastery Charter School - Pickett Campus in 2018. That’s the same year I became a JMB Award recipient.

I chose Penn State not only because of its great reputation, but also because I felt like I was part of a loving, supportive family the first time I stepped foot on campus. Penn State also offered me a GREAT financial aid package, so of course I couldn’t resist. I‘m thinking about majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a minor in Child Maltreatment.

The main thing I like about Penn State is its spirit. Whether it’s a pep rally, laser tag, or even a game night, Penn State always has something for me to take my mind off things.

My mentor Elena played a huge role in my first year.

Academically, my first year was AWESOME!! I made Dean's List both semesters and ended the year with a 3.8 GPA. I had prepared myself to fail. However, I didn’t have to struggle, and if I felt like I was on the verge of not understanding something, I used professors' office hours. The class I liked best was algebra, which came as a surprise because I hate math! I was lucky to get a professor who kept me engaged and genuinely wanted me to understand the material.

I didn’t really have a huge social life, by choice. I joined two organizations: the Caribbean Student Association and a women's empowerment group. Joining these groups allowed me to focus on my academics and still be part of some type of outside life. I met a few friends, and our bond has been unbreakable ever since.

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Penn State is roughly four hours away from Philadelphia. My travel stipend from JMB Award helped tremendously with traveling back and forth between home and school. Without it, I would have been left with nothing at times. My mentor Elena also played a huge part in my first year. She ALWAYS made sure that things were going fine and I was being treated the way I am supposed to. The first few months at PSU, I had roommate issues, and Elena helped me solve them.

The JMB Award didn’t just help me financially, but physically, mentally, and emotionally as well. I am so grateful to be a part of something so astounding.

Davina Loibman
Davina Loibman is a 2019 awardee. She writes about her journey from Mastery Charter to Penn State Main.

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The Hard Work of Selecting

I was nominated for the JMB Award by my high school counselor. The first thing I did after learning about the nomination was look at the award’s website. When I read all the benefits they offered—the financial award, having a mentor, the retreat, and the community aspect—I became even more eager to apply. I was selected as an honorable mention in 2017, which meant I became a member of JMB Award’s supportive community.

Having been an awardee, I was very curious as to how the awardees were selected. This year I found out. I was part of the selection committee and I saw all the hard work that goes into considering which applicants would fit best in the JMB Award community.

We look for someone who shows resilience and grit. When someone is able to rise above a challenge, you see their dedication, hard work, and motivation to continue moving forward. I saw myself reflected in all of them because I could see the hard work they were putting in to receive a college education.

Next we look for someone who will benefit from our community. As a member of the JMB Award community, it’s important to be involved and to be able to communicate with the other members of our community. Awardees are assigned a mentor, so we’re looking for applicants who are open to having this type of experience.

We also look for openness. That’s really the most important thing we look for. We look for someone who is open to learning and being supported by a powerful group of women who want to see each other succeed. These are the applicants we invite to interview as finalists and ultimately select as awardees.

Angie Ortiz
Angie Ortiz is a 2017 awardee. She writes about her experience on the 2019 selection committee.

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An Opportunity I'd Never Pass Up

JMB Award requires the most recent award winners serve on the selection committee that chooses the coming year’s award winners. That was not on my mind in 2017 when I checked email while walking to work and discovered I was selected as an awardee. I was so appreciative of receiving the award that the process behind how I was selected never entered my mind.

Then, in 2018, it was my turn to serve on the selection committee. While reading 30 applications, along with their stories covering the challenges that defined each applicant, I remembered being in these students’ shoes a year earlier.

I became more appreciative of being selected after helping with the selection process. I realized the time and energy it took to read the applications, participate in the selection discussion, and make the hard decisions of which finalists to interview from the many amazing applications we received.

Now, I’m a youth board member. I’ve been looking forward all year to being a part of the selection committee once again. It’s such an important moment. The JMB Award is so different from many other awards. We not only provide financial assistance to awardees, but also a community awardees can continue to interact with and be a part of for as long as they choose. Reading these various applicants’ stories allows me to advocate for those I believe will be a great addition. I hope to select awardees who will see the people and things we have to offer and make the most of them.

We depend on various voices to ensure we choose the best fit. This is where we former awardees come in—we can provide an awardee/youth point of view. It gives me joy to use my past experience to help the 2018 award winners, who are now serving for the first time, understand what to expect and what their role is. I’m happy to help, too, as it was a very daunting task my first time.

Being part of the selection process is an opportunity I’d never pass up. Deciding who receives the award and becomes part of our community greatly matters, because we are more than an award. We are family.

Vicktoria Phanthavong
Vicktoria Phanthavong is a 2017 awardee. She writes about her experience on the 2019 selection committee.

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A Look at Our Selection Process

Selection processes are often a mystery. How are awardees selected? Who does the selecting? How many are chosen? We don't want our process to be that way. So, allow us to walk you through the people, the timing, the steps, and the tools we use to determine finalists and then awardees.

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But first, we want to back up and talk about how students hear about our award. They’re nominated. Principals, college counselors, debate coaches, teachers—they all nominate students. So do staff from youth programs like Upward Bound, Fab Philly, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Once students are nominated, we invite them to apply.

This year, 45 students were nominated and 25 decided to apply. That’s OK with us. We’re looking for students with ambition who are ready to leap on opportunities. By applying, students are already demonstrating those characteristics.

Once we have both nomination and application in hand, we move into our selection period.

Introducing...the Selection Committee

The selection committee is made up of our advisory board and two of our awardees from the previous cycle. We invite awardees to participate because they bring a valuable "insider" view, having gone through the process less than one year earlier. This year we’ll have even more awardees casting their vote, thanks to our two new youth advisory board members.

Applicant Packet Prepared and Reviewed

Each member of our selection committee receives a packet containing every application and nomination, along with any additional supporting materials students submitted.

Before we pass this packet onto our selection committee, we strip out the names of the students and the nominators to remove bias. We also require any member of the selection committee to recuse themselves if they have an affiliation with a school or program and may know the student.

Each member of the committee reviews all this information and then scores each application according to our rubric. We ask committee members to consider whether the student demonstrates the characteristics we seek, has a vision for her next steps after graduating high school, and has some sense of how we can support that vision.

Picking the Finalists, then the Awardees

Next, the committee comes together to narrow the pool to finalists. Our finalist pool is typically limited to eight students. At our meeting, we average the committee’s scores to see if it naturally determines our finalist pool. We also debate and discuss applications to assure we hear all voices and opinions.

We invite finalists to interview with selection committee members, and these same committee members make awardee recommendations to the full committee. The full committee meets once more to review and approve all awardee recommendations.

Awardees Announced!

We keep all applicants updated about their status throughout the process. The happiest emails we send, of course, are to the four awardees. These emails go out in late May. Then, we’re ready to introduce our four 2019 awardees to the public by June. Stay tuned!

5 Questions for Rosina and Angie

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For our celebrations recognizing our fifth award cycle, we invited several people to answer five questions about their JMB Award experience. Rosina and Angie answered their five questions by phone and text, the standard way they’ve built much of their two-year relationship.

1. Angie, what did you hope to get from having a JMB Award mentor?
I was fortunate to have a mentor throughout high school, and I remember all the great things that I learned from her. I wanted the same experience with JMB Award, and I've gotten it. Rosina has been a great mentor. I'm the first in my family to go to college in the United States. During my first year at Fairfield University, I texted Rosina about my doubts and stress. She always listened to me and, most importantly, she gave me honest advice.

She's given me the confidence to advocate for myself on campus. With her, I’ve learned the importance of having someone you can talk with and trust. I always look forward to talking to Rosina because I know she gives me the advice she probably wanted when she was in college.

2. Rosina, you’re a founding member of JMB Award’s advisory board. Why did you wish to be a mentor, too?
It was meeting Angie that made me realize I wanted to be a mentor. From the beginning of my work with the award, I wanted to be as helpful to our community as possible. But meeting Angie during the 2017 award cycle made me realize I wanted to be HER mentor. I knew from the moment we met that she would be a wonderful addition to our community!

3. How did you two grow together as mentor and mentee?
We've known each other for two years now, but growing together takes time. You just have to start talking and slowly build trust. In the beginning the award gave us a structure for the conversations, but as we went along we developed our own style. I remember being so happy when Angie started reaching out to talk on her own, not just as part of our regularly scheduled meetings. As our trust grew, we began to talk about other things besides academic life. We continue to learn more about each other and this only strengthens our mentoring relationship.

4. What’s been your favorite shared experience as part of the JMB Award community?
Every summer JMB Award holds a daylong retreat for students and mentors. The retreat covers a variety of topics important to students and invites speakers to talk or work with us. Last summer Yasmine Mustafa came to speak with us about her experience as an immigrant.

Yasmine now owns her own business, ROAR for Good. But she came to talk with us about her undocumented status and what that meant when she was a college student— and how she worked hard to graduate. She shared how meaningful it was for her when she finally because a U.S. citizen.

It was an eye-opening talk for everyone and our favorite shared experience (so far!).

5. What five adjectives would you use to describe JMB Award?
This year JMB Award opened its fifth award cycle! We'll soon be doing the hard work of narrowing our pool to a group of finalists and then our four awardees. When we welcome these new awardees in June, here are the five adjectives we hope they'll also use when they talk about our community:

  • Caring

  • Supportive

  • Empowering

  • Creative

  • Dedicated

5 Questions for Cameron Voss

For our celebrations recognizing our fifth award cycle, we invited several people to answer five questions about their JMB Award experience. Cameron Voss is both a founding member of the advisory board and a mentor.

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1. Why did you decide to be a part of the advisory board?
Almost five years ago, Fran Melmed, our founder, asked if I would like to be part of a conversation about starting an award for “girls with grit.” I said I would like to be involved because of our long friendship, and because I wanted to help honor her mother, Jill Melmed-Buzzeo. I didn’t know exactly what we would be doing, but I was intrigued with the potential of the award.

Within a couple months we were ready to present our first award! I remember how excited the board members were when we arrived at Science Leadership Academy to honor Amy Chen, our first awardee, and welcome her into the brand-new JMB Award community. That day I felt proud to call myself a founding board member.

2. What has been your favorite experience?
I have two! Some of the advisory board members also volunteer as mentors. One of my favorite experiences has been getting to know my mentee, Momo. I met her right before she graduated from high school, and now she is a junior at Saint Joseph’s University where she’s an Interdisciplinary Health Services major. Being a mentor enhances the way I approach my role as a board member.

Another amazing part of serving on the board is reading the annual nominations and student applications. Every board member reads all of the nominees’ stories about navigating challenging situations and planning for the future. Although we do not get to meet all of the nominees in person, their words inform they way we design our mentoring program.

3. What important lessons has the board learned since the award was founded?
Every year the board thinks about ways to improve the award, reflecting on what went well and what could be enhanced. For example, this year we improved the questions on the student application, held group orientations for mentors and new awardees, and adjusted the method we use to check in monthly with mentors.

In addition to creating systems to help us function better, we remain open to new and creative ideas. When we can, we act on suggestions provided by our awardees. The toiletry kits we gave to awardees in December, the travel stipend that helps fund college visits and trips home over break, and our adorable cactus sweatshirts, all of these ideas came from students or were inspired by their needs.

4. How have you seen the award grow?
Every fall we send care packages to our awardees. These care packages include items that represent our support for all of our students at the midpoint of their fall semester. When you’re away from home for the first time or you have a cold and are facing a week of midterm exams, receiving homemade cookies, a box of tea, fuzzy socks, and a gift card for a coffee shop can really help! What's fun is that we ask donors who give exclusively in support of the care packages what item they wish included. That way our care packages are curated by all of us, mentors and donors.

This past year we used the care packages as a way to touch base with our mentors, too. As mentors, we had a fun evening together, getting to know each other better, sharing ideas about mentoring, and remembering our own college days.

5. What are your dreams for the award?
I initially thought the main component of our support would be the financial award and the mentoring would be a nice add-on. Now I know the mentoring is more important than the financial award, especially if the mentor and mentee both commit to it. As more women enter the JMB Award community, we’re focusing on bringing the mentors, mentees, and board members together in various ways to build community. We celebrate five years in March 2021. I predict in the next five we’ll undertake various activities to deepen and expand our work. And five years from now, I wonder if we’ll look back at where we are today and think of our group as small.

5 Questions for Amy Chen

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For our celebrations recognizing our fifth award cycle, we invited several people to answer five questions about their JMB Award experience. Amy answered her five questions while on a bus returning to Juniata College. 

1. You're graduating! What are your plans?
I enlisted in the National Guard in December, so my plan after graduation is basic combat training or BCT. However, I have a two-to-three month gap between graduation and my ship date. My goal is to work on politics in Philly. I'll look into getting involved with a campaign. I worked on a number of campaigns during my internship with Kalik & Associates in D.C. in the fall, and I'd like to use that experience. 

2. You were JMB Award's first awardee. That gives you a lot of exposure and perspective. What five words would you use to describe the award?
Supportive, Family, Empowerment, Grit, Safe

3. What's your favorite JMB Award memory?
My favorite JMB Award memory is from when I was a senior at Science Leadership Academy. The entire JMB Award family came to my high school with cupcakes to award me the scholarship. It was a humbling experience, and it's been really cool to see how much this organization has grown since 2015.

4. How do you think the award has changed since 2015?
The JMB Award family expanded along with opportunity and resources. The mentorship program grew. There is more structure set in place. When I received this award, I wasn’t sure what my role was given that I was just a freshman in college. Four years later, everyone within the community is giving back. 

5. What do you hope JMB Award will be five years from now?
A mini version of the Obama Foundation, but through the lens of women and leadership.

Welcome To Our New Board Members

Please join us in welcoming three remarkable women to our advisory board. Two will be familiar faces: They're awardees. We're delighted to have their voices and experience included in our future decision-making.

With their arrival, we say goodbye and thank you to our founding members Abigail Kopf, Emily Bryan, and Kate Kopf. Their expertise and input guided us well over our first four years.

Wrapping Up A Year of Thanks

We’re getting ready to open our fifth cycle in January to nominations. Before we do, we want to take a moment to share our achievements in 2018 and our priorities for 2019.

Building Students’ Confidence

Students at the end of their first year with JMB Award answer a survey to help us understand our impact.

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2018 accomplishments: Survey responses show being part of the JMB Award community increased 100% of our students’ confidence in their ability to advocate for themselves at college, find the resources they need, and make informed decisions. The same survey revealed two-thirds felt the experience left them with a better understanding of their finances.

2019 priorities: Identifying partnerships and programs for building out our financial empowerment curriculum.

Read more >>

Turn #GivingTuesday into #GivingToiletries

Have you checked the cost of toothpaste or tampons recently? If you have, you know they and other toiletries add up to a hefty receipt. All of these items are needed by our young women and, frankly, finding the necessary money can be a struggle.

That's why between now and November 27 we invite you to turn #GivingTuesday into #GivingToiletries. Our goal is to reach this day with nine toiletry kits filled for our girls on the go.

3 Steps >>

  1. Review our Target registry list: tgt.gifts/GivingToiletries

  2. Look for our most-wanted items and items that fit your budget. You may also purchase a Target card or make a donation and let us take it from there. Your $75 gift will purchase a complete kit.

  3. Purchase and ship. Your items will come direct to us. You can also arrange for an in-store pickup and avoid shipping charges. To do so, make sure to select “Add an alternate pickup person” and enter “Fran Melmed” when asked for full name and “info@jmbaward.com” when asked for email. Our store is Philadelphia SE, 1 Mifflin Street, Philadelphia, 19148.

Following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday invites individuals to indulge in giving back.

Yours in indulging.
JMB Award

JMB Award Summer Service Project Helps Women Against Abuse

Community service is an elemental part of what we do at JMB Award. Our nominated students must have a track record of giving back to their community, and we hope they keep giving back on their own time. It makes sense that we couldn't wait to create an opportunity for us to give back together. 

That happened this past weekend when we held our first summer service project! Refathun Momo, our 2015 recipient, and Fran Melmed, our founder, designed a day in partnership with Women Against Abuse, an organization providing physical, legal, and political support to women and children escaping situations of domestic violence. 

We started with a hike along Forbidden Drive in Wissahickon Valley Park followed by a picnic, and then the work began. Together we stuffed nearly 50 individual bags of items for the women and kids before we participated in a Women Against Abuse workshop on speaking up for ourselves without putting others down. 

Thanks to ALL donors who helped us fill the bags without draining our budget!
Dana of Dr. Philip Springer's office holds kids toothbrushes for our bags. 

Retreat Offered Time to Hang, Time to Learn

Our second annual summer retreat proved an irresistible and inspiring mix of learning, bonding, laughing, and growing. 

Awardees and their mentors gathered in July for a day packed with impressive guest speakers. We were treated to sessions on:

  • Mindfulness and guided meditation with local instructor, Ji Sun Chong
  • Budgeting and credit basics with Single Stop's Paula Umana
  • Career navigating and networking with Karen Lewis from Drexel University
  • Moving from immigrant to entrepreneur with the CEO of ROAR for Good, Yasmine Mustafa
  • Finding our voice and our narrative with Philly Slam League's founder, Matt Kay

"It was relatable and gave me confidence and inspiration to overcome struggle," remarked one awardee about hearing Yasmine's story. Another shared how the financial session "answered so many questions I have, and it was great being able to hear advice and answers from so many people." 

Awardees weren't the only ones who benefited from the day's content. The day "made me feel more comfortable addressing self-care with myself!," shared one mentor while another admitted "I didn't want to do the slam poetry when I saw it on the agenda and I didn't want to do it as we started. Now that we've done it, I'm going to incorporate it into my routine."

Our retreat is designed to build skills and connections to draw from throughout the school year. We feel certain we met our objective.

Welcome, 2018 Class!

We are thrilled to introduce you to our 2018 class. Please join us in congratulating and welcoming:

Treasure Sankoh, the graduation speaker at William L. Sayre High School, Treasure heads next to Community College of Philadelphia.

Serina Franco, a rising senior at Kensington Health Sciences Academy who dreams of being a nurse practitioner. 

Davina Loibman, a graduate of Mastery Charter - Pickett who's attending Penn State in the fall. 

Symone Johnson, a nominee from Camp Sojourner and graduate of Mastery Charter - Thomas. Symone's committed to Bloomsburg University.

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Women's History Month Quiz

Women's History Month came into being, officially and in the U.S., in 1987. (We all know women have been making history long before and since then.) Originally recognized for a week, Women's History Month now runs the month of March. 

We're celebrating the women who have motivated and influenced us and inviting you to join in. Tell us who inspires you? Who helped make you who you are? What woman, real or fictional, do you draw upon on a rough day or during a rough patch?

Submit your answers to our quiz and then follow along on Facebook. We'll be posting answers throughout the month of March.

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Name
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Love Series: Nina McPhaul, Recipient and Mentee

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. We asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories.

When Fran called to ask if I would apply for the JMB Award, I thought it was a scam and I was ready to hang up. She assured me it wasn’t, and we laughed about it as I searched through my emails to find the application to assure myself it was legit. I quickly sent essays I had been working on and hoped that I was the “girl with grit” they were looking for. I hadn’t realized how much that phone call would impact my life.

Photo: Art + Life Photography

Photo: Art + Life Photography

Honestly, I applied for the monetary aspect of the award because I thought I already had too many mentors. It took me only a few months to realize how much more valuable the relationships were than the generous travel stipend I received. They have taught me that one can never have too many mentors, too big of a network, or too much support.

I so deeply appreciate the circle of women constantly supporting my dreams. They have opened up doors for me that I didn’t even know were there and have constantly challenged me to take the risks I’d always been so scared to take. There have been so many opportunities that I felt cut off from that they have given me the opportunity to experience.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful, thoughtful, and deeply knowledgeable mentors Elena and Fran for helping me to grow, and to all of the women who are part of the JMB Award.

 

Help us secure a Double The Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise $2,000 by the end of this week. Give today >> 

 

Love Series: Anita Doncaster, Donor

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. That doesn't mean we aren't susceptible to the allure of days dedicated to love. In recognition of Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day, we asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories.

What I love about being a JMB Award donor can be summed up this way:

  • I love the emphasis on grit. To me, girls with grit are tenacious, creative, and unwavering in their pursuit of their goals—all traits I encourage and nurture in my own daughter.
  • I love the spirit of the award. Out of incredible loss came the opportunity to give girls who have everything it takes to be successful an extra hand, a vote of confidence, and the knowledge that there’s someone who has their back.
  • Finally, I’ve been following the trajectory of the JMB Award, and I’m so impressed by how the scope of the award has expanded to include focus on not just the financial, but also the emotional well-being of the award recipients.

I’m mom to a 15-year-old girl, so supporting the JMB Award is a no-brainer. I can’t wait to see how the award program will grow and add even more value for these girls!

Help us secure a Double The Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise $2,000 by the end of this week. Give today >> 

 

Love Series: Stephanie Malsbury, Financial Cheerleader

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. We asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories.

What I love about being a JBM Award financial cheerleader is working with our young women to build financial literacy and being a resource for their financial questions. Financial literacy is empowering. It increases awareness of one’s finances, which in turn can inform decisions and make it possible to achieve financial goals—whether they are small, like having spending money to go out with friends once in a while, or larger, like planning for a semester abroad.

Photo: Art + Life Photography

Photo: Art + Life Photography

I love that recipients have a safe space to talk through financial issues one on one, and that they also have group sessions where they can share tips about reducing spending and spending more effectively. It’s great to be part of their exchanges about how to manage the cost of books or explain to friends that an activity is out of budget. Dialogues such as these build awareness and share techniques that allow all of us to improve our financial literacy.

Help us secure a Double The Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise $2,000 by the end of this week. Give today >> 

 

Love Series: Jared Epler, Nominator

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. That doesn't mean we aren't susceptible to the allure of days dedicated to love. In recognition of Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day, we asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories. 

What I love about JMB Award is it recognizes young women who are so driven and have worked so hard not only to change their lives, but to change the communities that surround them.  

I nominate students each year because JMB Award offers them the opportunity to receive a quality mentor and funding to pursue additional educational opportunities. Often people say that our work is changing the world. I believe it is our students who will change the world—and we should make every effort to equip them with every opportunity we can.  

I believe that building a circle of support around us is critical to reaching the success we all desire. My JMB Award student is without a doubt one of the strongest, most empathic, and fiercely driven students I have ever met in my life. I am honored to work with JMB Award to be a witness and conduit to her greatness!

Jared Epler is the director of college counseling for Cristo Rey Philadelphia.

Help us secure a Double the Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise $2,000 by the end of this week. Give today >> 

 

Love Series: Rona Buchalter, BOD

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. That doesn't mean we aren't susceptible to the allure of days dedicated to love. In recognition of Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day, we asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories. 

What I love about being part of the JMB Award board of directors is working with women, both those I've known for years and new young women I am just meeting, to create a program whose every aspect oozes positive energy. Once we figured out how to turn the vision into an actual program, we had the chance to get down to it with real candidates—meeting our finalists face to face in their own schools, retreats, dinners,  card-playing, care packages, financial education, and lots of texts!

Photo: Art + Life Photography

I've loved seeing Fran take this nugget of a half-formed idea and cajole and nurture it into a growing sisterhood network, relentlessly looking for new ways to offer meaningful support. And I especially love knowing that Jill, a woman equal parts fierce and gracious, would be thrilled to see us offering this kind of person-to-person support for young women getting themselves to the next step in their lives.

Thanks, JMB Award, for letting me be part of this ride!

Help us secure a Double the Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise $2,000 by the end of this week. Give today >> 

Love Series: Elena Shomos, Mentor

At JMB Award, we're fostering a community of love and support that lasts beyond a single day. We asked members of our community to share why they love JMB Award. These are their stories. 

Photo: Art + Life Photography

What I love about being a JMB Award mentor is empowering my mentee to be the strongest, most confident, and bravest “girl with grit” she can, using my knowledge and past experiences as a guide.

I believe everyone needs someone who is always available to be encouraging, to help you look at personal, academic, and professional situations from new perspectives, and to provide ideas for creative solutions to some of life’s biggest challenges. I love watching my mentee become increasingly confident in the way she problem solves and in the decisions she makes as time goes by.

As a mentor, I know I don’t have all the answers—we couldn’t have been more different in our academic interests and paths in high school and undergrad. But so much of what I have been able to do over the last 10 or so years since graduating high school has been thanks to women who led by example and took time to mentor me in some capacity, who listened to my ideas and provided feedback, and who cheered me on as I pursued my goals. It’s an amazing experience to be able to pay it forward.

On a related note, I love the way that the JMB Award community is a family to all who belong. I am certain that my mentee’s senior year would have been dramatically different without several of the local connections she was able to make because of this outstanding group of women. When I was in high school, we weren’t having conversations about the importance of networking. Now, we can’t thrive without a network. The JMB Award community offers our mentees an amazing springboard to grow, and, as JMB founder Fran puts it, to develop their own “personal board of directors.”

Help us secure a Double the Love donor match. A generous, anonymous donor pledged $2,000 if we can raise a matching $2,000. Give today >>