The Inaugural Cohort of 22 WFMN Innovators Represents the Foundation’s First Direct Investment in the Leadership and Innovative Ideas of Young Women

The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota (WFMN) announced its first cohort of WFMN Innovators – 22 young women, ages 14-24, whose leadership, ideas, and solutions advance key recommendations in the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota (YWI MN), Blueprint for Action. Each WFMN Innovator was awarded a one-time $2,500 grant, representing a total investment of $55,000.

Each quarter, WFMN will engage the cohort in leadership development, advocacy opportunities, and community building to scale their leadership and project impact.

“We are thrilled to support the leadership and ideas of the WFMN Innovators, who are leading change in their communities right now. Collectively, they are ensuring economic opportunity, safety, and leadership for all young women in our state,” said Lulete Mola, WFMN director of community impact. “For WFMN, the Innovators exemplify YWI MN – centering the voices and leadership of young women to create the conditions for women and girls to thrive.”

Released in 2017 with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota, the Blueprint for Action comprises 20 recommendations for achieving equity in outcomes, access to equal opportunities, and safe, prosperous lives for all young women in Minnesota. The statewide action plan was created in partnership with young women from eight communities and informed by WFMN Listening Sessions.

Through video submissions, WFMN Innovators were selected based on articulation of project proposal, community voice, lived experiences, and commitment to community-building and leadership. WFMN engaged a grantmaking review committee comprised of Young Women’s Cabinet members. The committee received training, reviewed proposals, and recommended awards for applicants that best represented the mission, goals, and values of the Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota.

In addition, WFMN awarded $350,000 in grants to 14 front-line organizations working in the intersecting areas of economic opportunity, safety, and leadership with and on behalf of young women and girls to advance YWI MN Blueprint for Action recommendations. WFMN also awarded a $100,000 grant to YWCA St. Paul to provide leadership development and support to the Young Women’s Cabinet and $15/hour payment to all 25 members for participation on the Cabinet.

Launched in 2016, YWI MN is a multi-year, multi-million-dollar investment and public-private partnership with the Governor’s Office of the State of Minnesota to achieve equity in opportunities with and for young women of color, American Indian young women, young women from Greater Minnesota, LGBTQ+ youth, and young women with disabilities. The goal of YWI MN is to create a Minnesota where every girl thrives and is the champion of her own life.

In total, the awards in 2018 represent an investment of $500,000 through YWI MN.


WFMN Innovators:

Anisa AhmedAnissa Ahmed
Minnetonka, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations
#16 – Increase Mental Health Support

Anissa will provide programming and services to Somali young women and families through her nonprofit, Galanjo. Galanjo will provide resources, education, and awareness about mental health, harassment, and culture, and host community conversations about girls’ empowerment, gender discrimination, and community building.

 

Tamika-Jo Andy
Bemidji, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#17 – Prevent Violence through Healthy Relationships

Tamika-Jo Andy, a sexual health and community advocate, will use the WFMN Innovator grant to attend the 16th Indian Nations Conference hosted by the Office for Victims of Crime on the reservation of Auga Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. She plans to share what she has learned with communities including the Red Lake, White Earth Nation, and Leech Lake tribe. This conference will develop her leadership, deepen her work at Planned Parenthood, and help reshape the narrative of domestic violence in her Native community.

 

Aurin ChowduryAurin Chowdury
Woodbury, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Aurin will advance her political organizing skills and participate in a training for grassroots and electoral organizing through Camp Wellstone. She served as campaign manager to Andrea Jenkins for City Council and intends to continue political work.

 

Molly DaneMolly Dane
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#15 – Increase Access to Women’s Health Care

Molly will continue her work to create a cost accounting tool to collect financial information for independent reproductive care clinics and attend a conference where she can share this tool. The cost accounting tool will better inform clinic owners and board members by helping to create a full picture of clinic finances and operation. Ultimately, the goal is to keep clinics open so that more women can have access to reproductive services.

 

Kayla DavisKayla Davis
Isanti, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#5 – Enhance Career Pathways Develop
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Kayla plans to grow her business by opening a bakery and café. This space will also serve as a safe community space where families, kids, and young adults can create and learn life and baking skills.

 

Alex ExumAlex Exum
Hopkins, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Alex, a young mother, plans to take on a self-development project that includes leadership training and renewing her certified nursing assistant certificate. Her goal is to create an event called Rainbow Holidaze for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

 

Montana FiloteoMontana Filoteo
Minneapolis, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#1 – Build on Assets
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Montana will lead a research project to study the deficits in Minnesota transportation planning and identify improvements to better serve communities with disabilities. Montana hopes to illuminate these issues with her research and to inform future policy.

 

Khadra FiqiKhadra Fiqi
Minneapolis, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#3 – Reframe Harmful Narratives
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Khadra will travel to Cuba through the Witness for Peace organization. Through this experience, Khadra seeks to learn how the African diaspora community in Cuba organizes politically and creates change with limited resources.

 

Shiranthi GoonathilakaShiranthi Goonathilaka
Minneapolis, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Shiranthi will create a platform comprised of mentorship, safe talking spaces, and digital mediums for young people of color across the state. She hopes to assemble a team of other young women to help move this work forward.

 

Hilal IbrahimHilal Ibrahim
St. Louis Park, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#3 – Reframing Harmful Narratives
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Hilal will organize Still I Rise, an event to create a commercial that will highlight young Muslim women and underserved women to shift narratives about communities. Her goal is to empower young Muslim women and to bridge the gap between young Muslim women in America and a society that is consistently questioning their identity.

 

Cheniqua Johnson
Worthington, Minnesota
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Cheniqua Johnson, an advocate for representative leadership, will use the WFMN Innovator grant to develop her leadership as she continues her work in convening those from multiple backgrounds in her town and building avenues of success for young women leaders.

 

Khadijah LamahKhadijah Lamah
Maple Grove, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#5 – Enhance Career Pathways
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Khadijah intends to legally establish her nonprofit, Trees Academy, and to kick off the new organization with a Brunch and Books event. The organization serves new and first-generation Liberian immigrants in Minnesota by providing holistic and culturally relevant services to help new immigrants navigate systems, create safe spaces where young women can talk about sexual violence in the community, and promote intergenerational community healing.

 

Trella OldrockTrella Oldrock
Lower Sioux Indian Community, Morton, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Trella will engage in leadership development by attending the National U.N.I.T.Y. (United Nations Indian Tribal Youth) conference. Upon her return, she will share her learnings with her community, which has not been present at this national conference in the past. Trella is secretary for the Lower Sioux U.N.I.T.Y club.

 

Felicia PhilibertFelicia Philibert
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#14 – Respect and Teach Multiple Languages
#20 – Facilitate Holistic Mentorship

Felicia will create Girls Who Write, a free community program for middle school girls to help improve their writing skills and self-expression. The workshops will include an intergenerational approach, pairing middle school girls with a mentor, aged 18-25.

 

Atlease RobinsonAtlese Robinson
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#3 – Reframing Harmful Narratives
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations

Atlese will adapt her work teaching playwriting classes in the community. Her free workshop, Playwriting 001, is designed for black adults. Atlese will create a focus for young women who are new or returning to the craft of playwriting. The workshop provides a community space focused on developing dialogue, confidence in participants, and exploration of the expansive canon of black theater.

 

Ar'tesha (Puma) SaballosPuma Saballos
Minneapolis, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#16 – Increase Mental Health Support
#17 – Prevent Violence through Healthy Relationships

Puma will take courses to become a healing practitioner of Flower Essences healing. As part of her training, she will travel to Costa Rica. Puma plans to use her training to provide healing to individuals involved with the 2015 4th precinct occupation in Minneapolis.

 

Rosesam SmithRosesam Smith
New Hope, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#20 – Facilitate Holistic Mentorship

Rosesam will create a social change initiative to facilitate mentorship opportunities for youth from the West African community. The project will educate and encourage youth to make positive decisions by connecting them to various career paths and perspectives.

 

Maya TackaberryMaya Tackaberry
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#5 – Enhance Career Pathways
#19 – Change Gender and Generational Roles

Maya will attend the International Scholars Laureate Program Delegation on Engineering and Technology, an opportunity offered to students who have exhibited exemplary academic performance. She aims to use her learnings to encourage other young women to participate in STEM.

 

Tiara ThomasMaddie Thomas
Minneapolis, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#16 – Increase Mental Health Support

Maddie seeks to become a certified energy healer and provide services to her community. After her certification, Maddie will work with Simpson Housing Program’s mentoring program to teach youth about self-care, the value of mental health, meditation, and self-awareness as a gateway to healing. The students are part of a housing program that serves formerly homeless families.

 

Rochelle VincentRochelle Vincent
Plymouth, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#15 – Increase Access to Women’s Health Care

Rochelle will be trained as a massage therapist to complement her doula services and promote physical, mental, and post-partum healing. Through her business, Lotus BirthWorks, she will also provide additional full-spectrum doula services to three families of color, specifically black and African American families.

 

Elizabeth ZalangaElizabeth Zalanga
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#9 – Develop Young Women Leaders

Elizabeth will create a cohort-based fellowship program for high-school-aged girls of color with the goal of developing their political and civil leadership.

 

Cynthia ZapataCynthia J. Zapata
St. Paul, MN
Blueprint recommendations:
#13 – Ensure Community Spaces and Conversations
#14 – Respect and Teach Multiple Languages

Cynthia will obtain Teaching English Foreign Language (TEFL) certification, and will create Poeta, a poetry community for young bilingual (Spanish/English) women to learn about literature, read and write poetry, and perform spoken word.

 

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