Journalist Soledad O’Brien knows education is a powerful thing. The Harvard graduate and her husband, Brad Raymond, co-founded The PowHERful Foundation in 2011 to empower young women through education. Each year, over 20 young women receive scholarships, support and mentorship from the nonprofit organization. The idea behind the foundation is that a woman’s success should not be hindered by obstacles in her life.
“Not only do we pay tuition, but we pay to support them through barriers to completing their education,” says Renee Joslyn, the foundation’s executive director. “We say we get girls to — and through — college.”
The PowHERful Foundation offers wraparound services to young women to help them overcome barriers. That additional support can include paying expenses like rent, transportation and childcare, as well as covering mental or physical health needs.
So far, a dozen women have graduated thanks to funding and support from The PowHERful Foundation. The nonprofit’s board helps makes professional connections for students. Plus, the organization is working with brands like Coca-Cola, Google and Lyft to mentor young women in the program.
Students receiving scholarships are from all over the country and attend a variety of schools, including Stanford, Yale, New York University, UC Berkeley, Northwestern, Spelman, Tulane, Georgetown and Princeton.
To be considered for a scholarship from The PowHERful Foundation, young women need to be nominated. Self-nominations are accepted. Applicants must have a 2.7 GPA to get accepted; they must maintain a 3.0 GPA to stay in the program.
Scholarship recipients are grateful for the financial and emotional support, as well as career guidance. A Dillard University alumna says: “When the foundation came along, it was the guiding light I needed to help me pursue my dreams.”
A current student at Spelman College says: “I know I have a network of people ensuring that I succeed both in and outside of academia.”
Individual donors and corporate sponsors have been helping fund the scholarships and additional programming, like the organization’s free daylong empowerment summits for young women aged 14-23.
The summits, which are held four times a year around the country, bring together 150 to 200 young women with panelists and speakers from the local community to share information, make connections and learn entrepreneurship.
“We want to make sure as many young women as possible get access to resources,” Joslyn says.