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South Valley Journal

Junior Women in Business Scholarship Program Soars at South Valley Chamber

Dec 03, 2020 01:38PM ● By Stephanie DeGraw

Karla Rogers, director of Programs of the South Valley Chamber, Megan Pope, Emily Rupper, Mary Crafts (luncheon speaker), Erika Wells, Gabriela Bernal, Kate Berry, Sadie Herrera and Kaylee Eldridge. (Photo courtesy South Valley Chamber)

By Stephanie DeGraw | [email protected]

Navigating a career in business can be tricky for newbies. But thanks to the South Valley Chamber Junior Women in Business Scholarship Program, it is easier for young women. 

Each participant receives $1,000, attends leadership activities and assists with a service project. They collect items for South Valley Services such as new makeup, purses, cleaning products and new pillows. Next year, a new charity will be chosen. More sponsors are needed to help the program, which is funded mostly by the WCF Insurance.

"As a mentor, I hope to open their eyes about their potential, their possibilities and opportunities available to them," said Melissa Ceballos, Elevated Retirement Group, Talent and Business Acquisition. "Having someone who will share their experiences, the ups and downs, realities of life (successes and failures), the do's and don'ts and connecting with people is essential."

Ceballos didn't have a professional mentor while she was growing up. She was in an environment where most of the women in her family stayed home. She didn't know how to have a career until she landed an internship, which introduced her to mentors. That lead to a robust 19-year working career. Ceballos enjoys sharing her experiences with the young women in the program. 

"I don't begin to believe I have all of the answers,” she said. “But I truly believe through my life experiences, what I've learned. How I have evolved as a person, and as a professional, there's a lot I can give back to the up and coming generations of women in business.”

The traits she looks for in applicants include those eager to learn, not afraid to ask questions, take direction and take action. Ceballos has been a mentor to numerous employees, college students and high school students for more than 15 years.

"I have seen individuals I've mentored over the years become super successful,” she said. “Although I do not begin to take credit for their success, it is very rewarding when they remain a part of my life, as personal friends or casual acquaintances. They remind me of the impact I made on them and thank me for helping them. I can't think of specifics of anything I've done that attributed to their direct success. But a lot of it was believing in them and encouraging them, helping them when they are down or frustrated. Being someone, they can trust to give candid feedback and give a new perspective." 

One of the students in the Mentorship program said she is learning about how to become a successful woman. 

"I think it's difficult to find the representation of women in positions of power,” Anya Tiwari said. “But being in this program has exposed me to many successful women all at once. They come from a variety of different backgrounds and are talented in a variety of different ways. Still, they have all gone through similar struggles in climbing to the top of a male-dominated field and proving their worth.” 

The insight into their experiences has helped Tiwari learn what to do to battle some unique challenges of being a working woman. Tiwari is a senior at Hillcrest High School and is participating in the Mentorship program this year. Some of the things she has learned are challenges women face she had never even considered. One of those was the imposter syndrome. Many women face it when they are in a job. Tiwari attended a workshop by Dr. Angela Trego. Tego said women often feel underqualified and undeserving of their jobs, more so than the men in the same position. 

"Dr. Angela Trego's talk about the imposter syndrome was definitely a learning moment for me because, for many years of my life, I've felt as though I was not deserving of what I had, that I had somehow cheated others into getting where I was,” Tiwari said. “Through her talk, I realized that this is something a lot of people experience and that I would not be where I was if I had not worked for it. Dr. Trego also helped me settle some of the constant anxiety I felt about not being good enough for the positions I was in."

At another mentor gathering, Col. Angela Micheal talked about women's under-representation and how it causes challenges both internally and externally and balancing work and family. "Their presentations weren't meant to discourage us from pursuing our passions and careers; they empowered us," Tiwari said. "When we push through the challenges we face, we grow stronger and learn more. Our struggles are what make us who we are, and so; although we have our work cut out for us, the challenge is worth it. There's no reason to be deterred by the long, bumpy road ahead. It is a road full of experiences and lessons that make us more complete."

Tiwari enjoys how diverse the backgrounds of so many of the mentors are. They provide a more holistic understanding of the different industries and how to be successful within them. She said the speakers are also engaging.  

“Their lessons are something I know I'll remember for many years down the road,” she said. “I'm excited to talk to more of the members of the program.” After high school, Tiwari's plans include becoming a doctor and setting up her practice where her mentorship experience will serve her well.

Another mentor in the program said she wanted to provide better opportunities for women to be in leadership positions. "By mentoring young women and sharing my perspective and experience, I believe I can make a difference," Rani McBride, director, Claims Administration said.

The advice she gives participants includes be true to yourself, find out what you want to do and what you need to do to get there. Then reach out to those who can assist you with your goals. "Be willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done," McBride said. "Be willing to take feedback. Make a real effort to improve based on feedback from others. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself."

McBride desired to become a mentor since she had many growing up. Her mentors were both men and women teachers and bosses. 

"The most memorable and effective mentors were those that did a lot of listening and guided me based on my interests,” she said. “They provided meaningful feedback to me. My best mentors inspired, motivated and developed me into what I have become today," she said.

Giving back to the community is also essential to McBride. She wants to empower young women through mentoring to realize their career goals. McBride values the contribution women bring to the workforce. She believes there needs to be better opportunities for women to become leaders. 

"By mentoring young women and sharing my perspective and experience, I believe I can make a difference," she said.

For more information, contact Karla Rogers, director of Programs for the South Valley Chamber, at [email protected]southvalleychamber.com.