The Mentorship Program You'll Want To Be A Part Of
The benefits of mentorship and investing in girls' education have been well documented. There's no argument there. So it's especially smile-inducing to find organizations and strong female leadership that have rallied around this cause.
One such visionary is Kaye Popofsky Kramer, founder of Step Up, an LA-based nonprofit that "inspire[s] professional women to inspire teen girls through after-school and mentorship programs."
Step Up believes "you can't be what you can't see." Our members serve as role models for Step Up teen girls and help empower them to be confident, college-bound, career-focused and ready to join the next generation of Step Up members.
With programs in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, and with Dallas on the way, the Step Up is making the future generation of girls stronger. And we're better for it.
With such an intriguing development story, I wanted to know more (and thank) Step Up's founder. Here, I Q&A Kaye about transforming bad news into powerful and positive impact, how being a former talent agent helped her grow her organization, and a particularly inspiring Step Up success story.
Generally, great things start from a personal journey. Was there a life experience you had that prompted the creation of Step Up?
In the summer of 1998, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being the first in my circle of friends, or so I thought, to be faced with losing a parent to this disease, a group of 30 women gathered in my living room to give their support and talk about what we could do to help in the fight against breast cancer.
What did you set out to create when you started the organization?
It became clear from the dialogue among my friends that whether or not cancer or other obstacles had directly affected us, we all felt the need to take a more proactive role in our community, our wellness, our professional lives and our personal dedication to making a difference. It was time for us to take action and create an entity that could impact our future.
When did you know you were really on to something great?
In 1998, we began as an organization run entirely by volunteers and operated like that until 2006, when we hired our first staff member. Hiring our executive director as we began to institutionalize and experience rapid growth showed us that this organization was here to stay.
Is there a girl's story or mentorship moment that has stuck with you?
There are so many stories of resilience and success, but I always think back to Yosselin. We met Yosselin when she was a freshman at one of our Los Angeles partner high schools. She was in a gang, regularly skipping school and carrying a knife. Four years later, she was the high school valedictorian with a full scholarship to Kenyon College in Ohio. If you ask Yosselin, the drastic transformation had a lot to do with Step Up.
At Step Up, we always say that “you can’t be what you can’t see.” I think of Yosselin leaving her neighborhood of graffiti, violence and unemployment to board a Step Up bus and literally be transported downtown where she now sees skyscrapers, conference rooms and professional women in business suits.
Step Up girls like Yosselin graduate high school with the experience of an internship and a valuable list of references already on their resume. She’s forever changed her life and the lives of her future family – and that motivates me to continue to help Step Up reach even more girls like Yosselin.
What knowledge from your time as a talent agent and producer did you apply to Step Up?
Timing is everything! And that listening to people’s goals will help you figure out how to get them to help with your goals.
What was your leadership style while building Step Up?
Don’t take no for an answer.
What are you looking forward to in 2016?
Launching Step Up in Dallas!
Coffee, tea or green juice?
Tea! I drink 3 giant cups of Numi English Breakfast tea every day.