By: Yelin Gemma Lee, News Writer
On September 12, 2021, SFU student Meghan Dunn and alumni Avneet Sandhu launched She Connects, alongside Leena Parhar and Emily Haugen. She Connects is a non-profit organization, funded by grants, that runs programs supporting grade 10–12 girls in their preparations for university.
They provide online mentorship services to young women through their volunteer base of students. Their website states, “As a grassroots movement, our main goal is to connect young women in high school with women who have graduated, to foster thought-exchange, dialogues, and mentorship synergies.” The program is open to all female-identifying or non-binary people for both mentor and mentee positions.
The Peak interviewed Meghan Dunn, health sciences student, She Connects co-founder, and outreach director.
According to Dunn, She Connects started when the four founders met while attending an event in Ottawa in April 2019. The event, Daughters of the Vote, aimed to empower women’s involvement in politics and leadership. All attending delegates were eligible to apply for the Rosemary Speirs Leadership grant which would give them seed funding for a women-led, community-based leadership project. Dunn, Sandhu, Parhar, and Haugen, upon receiving grants, pooled the funds into their vision for She Connects which they started in late 2019.
“The program was created because all four founders felt that mentorship is a beneficial part of life, in particular during the transition out of high school where navigating so many different opportunities and pathways in and around you can be challenging,” said Dunn. “As a team, we hope to empower young women and foster strong relationships between young women.”
Dunn stated all mentors are trained under Mentor Canada, screened by the She Connects founders, and have passed criminal record checks. While there are no specific questions for mentees about what type of mentors they would like, Dunn mentioned She Connects can accommodate specific mentor arrangements for those who require it. Once matched with a mentor, mentees can direct the conversation to specific topics they are seeking guidance in. Modes of contact are decided between the mentor and mentee, with virtual meetings being recommended due to COVID-19.
“She Connects is heavily focused on mental health. Our mentors can offer support in the areas of mental health, body image, academics, career paths, gap years, and general ‘post-high school’ confusion,” said Dunn.
Dunn explained they target young women with their programs because they face many shared barriers, such as entrance to the workforce. Dunn pointed to how high school offers many mental health challenges unique to women.
According to Dunn, the biggest obstacle within their launch has been recruiting enough mentees for their many qualified mentors. Their current ratio is one mentee to every two mentors, with COVID-19 limiting access to this age-specific audience. Despite challenges, COVID-19 has allowed them “to focus on developing [their] online platform” and their launch has been well received by the public so far with over 40 attendees at their launch event on September 12.
“We are open to creating more comprehensive programs down the road, but for now we are just ensuring that our mentors/mentees are receiving the support that they need and generally just solidifying our program,” said Dunn. “We are so excited about whatever the future has in store!”