In honor of the launch of our new Mentorship Program, Brittany Wardlow, Mentorship Chairperson at the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation, shares her perspective on why female mentorship is so important. The foundation is passionate about cultivating female athletes’ environment to build sustainable leadership skills through our mentorship program. We strongly believe that it is crucial to have structured mentorship as an avenue for high school athletes to practice their communication skills in a safe environment by focusing on growth and improvement.
Why did the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation feel like it was essential to implement a mentorship program?
The mentorship program came up organically in one of our board meetings after reviewing scholarship applications. Initially, the discussion was around sports injuries because it was such a theme in the scholarship applications. We wanted to pair college athletes who had recovered from injuries with high school students who had setbacks in their sport due to injuries. As inspirational as that initially felt, there was something in me that knew we could dig deeper. It seemed like the perfect time to leverage my passion for mentorship and create a program that goes beyond recovering from an injury. We have such an incredible network of young women at the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation, so creating a space for them to get to know each other and support each other was a no-brainer.
How is the mentorship program going to be facilitated?
The program is 100% remote due to both COVID-19 and the fact that girls will be paired across the nation. We want to ensure that we have a modern, easy, and scalable way to facilitate the program, so technology will play a big part. All participants will have a GBGF online profile with information about themselves, their sport, and their goals. It is vital for us to have a diverse set of both mentors and mentees to ensure all women are represented in our program. Each high school student will have two mentors; one in the fall semester and one in the spring. Hopefully, those relationships don’t end when the program ends but continues as a cadence that makes sense for the participants. I want to think the program will create deep, long-lasting friendships.
What are the long-term goals of the mentorship program?
The long-term goal is to build a community of leaders to impact the next generation of female athletes and professionals. Right now, we are pairing high school juniors and seniors with college juniors and seniors. Next year, we plan to layer on a program for college juniors and seniors to be paired with female business leaders in various fields. By adding a professional development piece to the program, we will impact young women beyond college and their sport. This will allow female athletes to leverage what they gained through athletics and transfer that to their career aspirations. At the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation, we firmly believe that the mindset female athletes develop in their sport will pay tenfold in their careers when leveraged appropriately.
What desired short and long-term outcomes do you have in mind concerning impacting the mentors and mentees’ lives?
When I think about the program’s big picture impact, I envision a community of women who have felt the power that comes from having a supportive female leader in their life. I can see doors opening and dreams broadening for mentees because of the impact of a mentor in their life. It will be fantastic to watch mentors flex their leadership for the first time outside of their team or sport.
When interviewing mentors, something that continually came up was their desire to support a high school athlete like they wish they had been supported. There is so much a college athlete can offer a high school student, so having a structured program creates an excellent place for mentors to share their experience and grow in leadership. They will be able to lead by example and hold their mentees accountable to goals, which are foundational qualities to any great leader.
Mentees will be able to pull from their mentor’s experience to be more prepared for college, college athletics, and ultimately have a person in their life who is there to support them outside of their immediate network. Long term, I can see these friendships lasting beyond the program. We want to build a community of female leaders that can rally together and support one another for years to come!
What is your role at the foundation?
I’m currently the Mentorship Chair and a board member at GBGF. I was initially brought on as a board member because of my experience working with non-profits. My passions aligned with the foundation, so it was a perfect fit. I’ve always been a girls’ girl and have gravitated towards other confident and driven women. Joining a board of like-minded women was a great opportunity to combine forces. When the opportunity came up for me to create a mentorship program for the foundation, I jumped at it. With such a great network of young women at the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation, I knew we were on the brink of something impactful. I know how lucky I’ve been to have strong women in my life and look forward to creating a space for young women to have the same opportunity.
Mentorship Chair and Board Member at the GRACEDBYGRIT foundation