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Empowering Young Women Leaders: Inflection Supports SHE-CAN

SHE-CAN

To celebrate our 9.1 release, Inflection donated to a global cause with local roots. Our own Julie Hill Kimbrell, director of product for GoodHire, nominated a San Rafael, CA-based nonprofit organization founded by a member of her extended family.

SHE-CAN celebrates and cultivates female leadership in post-conflict countries, including Rwanda and Cambodia. Through academic support, personal mentoring, and SAT preparation, SHE-CAN helps young women earn college scholarships and covers any additional collegiate costs. After graduation, a team of mentors continues to support the women as they head back to their home countries.

The organization got its start in 2006 when Barbara Bylenga, who was volunteering in Rwanda, met a young woman who wanted to attend college in the United States. The woman, Malyse, explained that she had all the right grades, but didn’t know how to apply for scholarships to make it happen. Barbara agreed to help, but wasn’t sure how.

She joined forces with two friends, Athena Katsaros and Nancy Murphy, to find a way. Today, Malyse is a proud graduate of Bucknell University and has just returned to Rwanda after earning her master’s degree in Public Health from Boston University.

With this life-changing gift coordinated for Malyse, Barbara saw an opportunity to empower many young scholars. In 2011, Barbara returned to Rwanda and started SHE-CAN. The organization selected scholars, matched them with mentors, and ultimately won four scholarships that first year. SHE-CAN has grown every year since and expanded into Cambodia in 2014.

As of February 2016, a total of 27 young women have won full-ride scholarships to top schools including Lehigh, Lafayette, Bennington, Whitman, Harvard, Smith, Scripps, UC Berkeley, Oberlin, Bucknell, and more.

We asked SHE-CAN a little more about the work they do.

What does the future look like for SHE-CAN?

In about six years, we plan to be in five post-conflict countries and accept 50 scholars a year. To guarantee placement and funding for each scholar, we created a new scholarship called “SHE-CAN: Supporting Her Education Changes a Nation.” This scholarship requires that colleges to commit to accepting one scholar every year. Six schools have already joined the coalition: Bucknell University, Muhlenberg College, Lafayette College, Gettysburg College and Scripps College. We will invite 14 additional schools to join the SHE-CAN scholarship program in 2016.

SHE-CAN is building a steady, growing pipeline of highly educated and networked female leaders returning back to their home countries. By coming together through the SHE-CAN program, the scholarship aid’s impact is concentrated in the same five post-conflict countries. Over time, this concentration has the potential to create what we call a “female leadership reverberation effect.” The graduates form a sisterhood version of an old-boys network, which influences the future of their country while strengthening women’s leadership, rights, and opportunities for young women who follow.

What’s the greatest challenge your organization had to overcome?

Our greatest challenge will always be identifying and selecting the right scholars. By committing to support only low-income young women from post-conflict countries, we certainly aren’t making our job easy. Just a tiny sliver of that population has been fortunate enough to gain the level of education and confidence necessary to thrive on a U.S. campus. Our low-income scholars are competing against thousands of middle and upper income international students who, because of their more privileged lifestyles, have had more guidance and exposure.

All of this means SHE-CAN scholars have to be inherently strong young women and, to some degree, gifted in academics. SHE-CAN is connected to organizations across Rwanda and Cambodia, all of which have been instrumental in providing leads on amazing women who stand out from their peers.

How can people support SHE-CAN?

For our 2016 incoming group of 13 scholar-candidates from Rwanda and Cambodia, we need 13 new mentor teams! Teams come together in groups of 5-6 to be a support system for one scholar throughout the application process, her time at school, and in launching her career at home. Women who are interested in creating a mentor team should reach out to Lyndsie Dellaria at ldellaria@shecan.global.

In order to grow the SHE-CAN scholarship program, we are looking for senior-level connections with U.S. colleges to provide introductions to leaders in Admissions. If you or someone you know currently holds an influential position such as Trustee, senior leadership, or is an influential donor, please reach out to Barbara Bylenga at bbylenga@shecan.global.

Additionally, in-kind donations of airline miles are incredibly valuable in bringing our scholars here from Rwanda and Cambodia, as well at to attend our leadership training in January.

Finally, our scholars are working hard to become change-makers in their fields and are always looking for internship opportunities during their summer and winter breaks. If there are any companies or organizations looking for interns in the coming months, we encourage you to reach out to us about filling these positions with SHE-CAN scholars. We can provide a list of scholars looking for internships this summer.

Julie and her mom at SHE-CAN’s Revolution 2.0: a fundraiser panel discussion where SHE-CAN scholars interviewed three high-level women leaders.
Julie and her mom at SHE-CAN’s Revolution 2.0: a fundraiser panel discussion where SHE-CAN scholars interviewed three high-level women leaders.

For more information about SHE-CAN, check out their website.

In January 2010, we began making a charitable donation every time we released a new version of our software as our way of giving back to the global community that makes our success possible. Inflection team members nominate causes and organizations that they want to support.

For a list of all the organizations we have donated to as part of our release cycle donations, check out our Giving Back page.

TAGS: charity, donation, giving back