Our Fellows Program
The Fellows Program was created in 2017 to invite young women ages 20-35 to bring diverse voices and perspectives to our collective giving grantmaking. The program is for women in our four-county region who demonstrate a commitment to learning about philanthropy and the needs in the community, but who may currently lack the financial resources to join as self-paid members. We encourage women of all ethnic backgrounds to apply.
Fellows participate as full voting members of ninety-nine girlfriends and are expected to be active in ways that advance our education and grantmaking. Fellows also select an annual engagement activity that advances their own learning and the work of our collective giving circle. We ask for a three-year commitment to this program. Through the generosity of program supporters, the membership contribution of $1,100 is partially subsidized at decreasing levels over the three years. Fellows pay $100 in year one, $250 in year two, and $500 in year three.
Fellows also have the opportunity to be matched with a mentor from ninety-nine girlfriends each of the three years, creating an opportunity to develop one-on-one connections with multiple members who can provide helpful information about ninety-nine girlfriends, the community, and beyond.
We will be accepting applications again in early 2020.
AZUL TELLEZ WRIGHT
Azul shares what it is like to be a part of the ninety-nine girlfriends Fellows Program:
Over the past year, I’ve interviewed the ninety nine girlfriends fellows cohort to shed light on these four impressive women (five including myself!). Now I’d like to turn the spotlight onto some of our mentors who have guided us over the past few years. I had the pleasure of interviewing my mentor, Eileen Brady, and Molly Gray’s mentor, Abby Farber, who shared their experiences in the program.
What does being a mentor for ninety-nine girlfriends entail? As a mentor, you are matched with one fellow who shares similar career interests and goals. Mentors attend quarterly meetings with the other mentors and fellows and are encouraged to meet with their mentee as often as they both see fit. Mentors also guide their mentee in their Fellows Project, which changes each year.
What I find wonderful and unique about the ninety-nine girlfriend’s Fellows Program is that each mentor-mentee relationship is different and can be tailored to what each pair wants and needs. Abby explains, “I asked Molly what her goals were for the mentorship and what she was hoping to get out of it. It’s about finding out about what the person wants and needs. A lot of being a mentor to Molly was talking about big career decisions, giving her direction.” Eileen explains that her experience as a mentor surprised her; “As mentors, we tend to think, ‘I should do this. This will be a good thing for someone else, when really I get so much insight, and creative thought out of it. I get to share my story as well as listen to other people’s stories.”
Being a mentor also connects you to a greater community within ninety nine girlfriends. The quarterly Fellow Program meetings are wonderful ways to get to know other members on a deeper level. “When I see Azul at ninety nine girlfriend events, I have someone to talk to and I can introduce her to other people,” Eileen says.
I think the other fellows would agree with me when I say that having a mentor is a huge boon in my life. I feel lucky to spend time with an experienced individual who shares my professional interests and guides me in a myriad of ways.
The fellows team has just selected three new fellows for this year, who will be paired with mentors of their own. If you’re interested in being a mentor, contact the Fellows Program lead, Irene Foster at Irenefoster1992@gmail.com. Perhaps you’re considering being a mentor but don’t know if you fit the bill. Here are some words of wisdom from Abby; “There is no ideal mentor. You jump in. If you’re someone who likes to listen, who doesn’t think they have all the answers, who enjoys meeting new people, it’s a wonderful way to connect to your community and to meet people from different walks of life.”
The current mentors include Benna Gottfried, Barbara Hilyer, Courtney Mersereau, Eileen Brady, and Abby Farber. Irene Foster, Melissa Lowery, and Barbara O’Hare are the Fellows Program Coordinators. Find them at at ninety-nine girlfriends event and ask them about their experience as mentors!
Cleo joined ninety-nine girlfriends as a Fellow in 2017. She works for Partnership for Safety and Justice, where she’s been the Development Director for three and a half years. The organization engages in statewide advocacy focused on making Oregon’s criminal justice system more fair and effective for survivors of crime, people convicted of crime, and the families of both. As their Development Director, Cleo oversees the organization’s annual fundraising programs. She explains, “I view fundraising as a form of community organizing and movement building. It’s about developing meaningful relationships with folks in the community, pooling our resources, and leveraging our collective power to effect change.”
Cleo’s background in criminal justice is impressive. She received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in criminological research, and quickly became interested in fixing our broken criminal justice system. Dedicated to the cause, Cleo plans to continue working in the criminal justice space. “It’s a problem that I hope we can remedy in our lifetime so I envision myself doing this work for the long haul.”
Outside of work, Cleo spends time at the Oregon State Penitentiary meeting with the Asian Pacific Family Club and celebrating a shared identity of Asian and Asian Pacific Islander heritage. For over three years, Cleo has been one of the many volunteers helping APFC fundraise to build a healing garden inside the state penitentiary. “A lot of the people in the club are serving extremely long prison sentences, so this project is an opportunity for them to be a part of something positive and to bring the beauty of the outside world in.” APFC has raised $350,000 and will break ground next February. “They’re building a community of healing within the prison and leaving a lasting legacy. It’s very humbling.” Cleo is also on the board of OAASIS (Oregon Abuse Advocates and Survivors in Service), an organization that advocates for policies that help children who have survived sex abuse.
While Cleo is thoroughly dedicated to criminal justice reform she makes times to sustain herself through fun hobbies. Cleo and her husband enjoy cooking exciting vegan meals and taking their dirt bikes out to the Tillamook National Forest. “I’ve never been a very athletic person or had good hand-eye coordination, so I decided to try something really out of my comfort zone. I took a course and found it really challenging at first but I kept practicing and got my motorcycle license. It’s been a journey!”
Cleo and two other inaugural Fellows helped plan and run the ninety-nine girlfriends Awards Ceremony in 2017. In 2018 she served on the Arts & Culture grant review team and hopes to participate on another team again this year.
I am one of the three 2019 fellows with ninety-nine girlfriends. I was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts and lived most of my adult life in the heart of Boston. I attended Westfield State University, graduating with my bachelors in Communications and a minor in Women’s Studies where my fascination with women’s roles in society and the struggles we often face as primary caregivers within families swiftly grew.
Inspired by my family’s personal struggle with navigating our very complex healthcare system, I decided to pursue my Master’s Degree in the Art of Women’s Health. This sociology-based program focused on the growing need for non-clinical professionals in areas such as cross-cultural women's health training, domestic violence prevention/intervention, HIV/AIDS education, reproductive health policy, women's health promotion, geriatrics and patient advocacy. This program helped me not only in practice, working for non-profits with community members, but also in my own experiences with the healthcare system.
During and after graduate school I had the pleasure of working for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts; starting in their call center as a patient navigator, then working my way up joining their fundraising team and later working as a member of their education department, helping to coordinate statewide sexual education trainings.
After many years of working in healthcare, my passion shifted toward the power of philanthropy and community engagement. My time working in the corporate sector helped me bridge that gap, as I managed the social responsibility and philanthropy of a global asset firm in Boston. In this role, I was responsible for connecting our 500 employees with the eight non-profits we collaborated with to strengthen employee and community engagement resulting in over $1.7 million dollars in grants awarded to our non-profit partners.
Currently, I have the honor of focusing on an area near and dear to my heart: affordable housing. Growing up with a single mother of three children in subsidized, section 8 housing, I have experienced firsthand the struggles and stressors families face when rent consumes the majority of their income. I believe that homeownership is one of the key ways to end generational poverty. After witnessing the cycle repeat itself through my sister and her children’s experience of homelessness, I believe it is a cause worth fighting for. Moving to Portland I was struck by the need for affordable housing mirrored from coast to coast. Now working at Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East as a Donor Engagement Officer over the last year, I finally feel like part of the solution for affordable housing. In fact, over the next four years, our innovative strategic plan will empower us to triple the number of Portlanders we serve annually.
In my personal life, I am an avid reader—some of my favorite authors include Brene Brown, Cheryl Strayed, Milan Kundera and Brett Easton Ellis. I live in Vancouver with the loves of my life: my wonderful partner Nick and our two cats, Thomas and Charlie. On the weekends, you are most likely to find us attempting to complete a home maintenance project, seeking out new local pop up markets, baking treats for friends and colleagues, and binge watching documentaries and Netflix series. I am excited to be a part of ninety-nine girlfriends and very much look forward to learning more about many of you!
Emma joined ninety-nine girlfriends as a Fellow in 2018. She is the Development Director for Portland Homeless Family Solutions, a 2017 Impact Award winner. PHFS’ mission is to empower homeless families with children to get back into housing and stay there. I met with Emma in her office in downtown Portland where she shared with me some of the exciting projects PHFS is implementing.
PHFS recently purchased a facility in the Lents neighborhood that will triple their capacity from eight to twenty six families per night. With this new space, they’ll be able to expand their housing program, life skills classes and their homelessness prevention programs. The building is currently being remodeled using trauma-informed design and architecture, which includes calming colors, natural wood, natural light, and living plants. Research shows that families who live in these intentionally designed spaces experience shorter shelter stays, and more success moving into housing and staying housed.
In addition to the family shelter, PHFS is planning to convert the parking lot on the premises into potentially 40 affordable housing units.
"Receiving the ninety-nine girlfriends Impact Award put us on the map. It ramped us up to be able to raise such a large amount of money in such a short period of time to buy this new campus.”
When talking about her work, Emma exudes positivity; “So much of my identity is tied into my professional work, which I feel really privileged and lucky to do. It’s a way that I live my whole life. The connection to ninety-nine girlfriends is an extension of that. It’s all about actually taking action for me.” Attending the Awards Ceremony as the grant recipient in 2017 inspired Emma to apply for the Fellows program. “I had never been in a room with so much positive energy before. It was so inspiring to see hundreds of women joining together to give these amazing nonprofits a platform and a transformational gift.” As a Fellow, Emma served on the Get Out the Vote team and stage managed the Awards Ceremony.
I am co-founder of Women’s Empowerment Coalition (WECO).
Born and raised in Austin Texas, I and have lived in Portland on and off since 2014. I have an M.A in International Development, a B.A in Psychology and English, and 5 years of experience coordinating global development programs in lower-income countries. I am passionate about creating quality education abroad and volunteer experiences, and have traveled for study, work, and leisure to over 40 countries in Europe, Asia, and South and Central America. For WECO, I have worked with my co-founder to plan, fund, and coordinate three community projects in Costa Rica, Cambodia, and most recently Peru. We are in the midst of scheming for a project trip to India in the early spring of 2020, most likely involving a menstrual hygiene program for girls in rural areas.
In Costa Rica we developed a program that provided undocumented women with support to get their high school equivalency so they qualified for better paying jobs and housing opportunities. In Cambodia, we worked with a local NGO on building a child care center so that women in rural areas could bring their children and attend workshops and trainings the center offers. In Peru we worked on an artisan center that provides a space and business training for a Quechua women's weaving cooperative.
I am a passionate, versatile learner, and enjoy working on projects that allow me to discover new things about myself and the world around me. I have always been drawn to nonprofit work as a means of equalizing the opportunity scale and channeling resources to underrepresented communities. Beyond development work, I enjoy projects that allow me to write, edit, and curate quality content in a visually appealing way. I enjoy working on freelance writing, editing, and design projects - especially if it's for a good cause :)
During my free time I am an avid hiker, cyclist, tennis player, reader, writer, and lover of nature. I am currently reading a bit of many books, including Sapiens, West with the Night, Bossypants, and a collection of Neruda poems.
Molly joined ninety-nine girlfriends during its first year. In both her work and at school, Molly is very focused on nonprofit management. As the Director of Nonprofit Partnerships at the Oregon Public House, Molly coordinates fundraising events, manages ongoing collaborations, and books venue space for nonprofits. Established in 2010, the Oregon Public House is a philanthropic bar which operates not to make a profit for owners or shareholders but to donate to local, regional, and international nonprofit partners.
Through this role and member education experiences with ninety-nine girlfriends, Molly has uncovered a desire to expand her repertoire and understanding of business operations. She is currently in her first year of the Nonprofit Management MBA program at the University of Portland. In addition to school and the Public House, Molly is looking to gain some experience consulting with nonprofit and hopes to one day work for a foundation.
During her first year as a fellow with ninety-nine girlfriends, Molly was on the Arts and Culture Grants Review Team. That year’s Arts & Culture finalist was My Voice Music. In her second year, Molly served as the Impact Team’s liaison to MVM. In her third and final year as a fellow, Molly plans to continue with the Impact Team and is interested in putting her new business skills to work with the Financial Review Team.
I am so excited to join ninety-nine girlfriends. It is such an inspiring group of women and I can’t wait to see how we can make a difference in our community! I am from Kingman, Arizona, a small town in the northwest corner of the state. I originally moved to Portland in 2011 to attend college at the University of Portland, where I double majored in German and Communication Studies. During college I worked for many schools in the North Portland area, UP International Student Services, and studied abroad in Salzburg, Austria. All of these experiences further spurred my passion for education and cultural exchange.
After graduation, I moved near Frankfurt, Germany as an English Teaching Assistant for the Fulbright program. Working with 5th-12th grade English classes at a local German school, the students and I dived in topics ranging from plural nouns to American holidays to immigration policies in the US. I also spent much of my time in Germany working with different refugee programs for both adults and youth. For the first, our goal was to create a place of cultural exchange for and with the refugee population, and to achieve this we volunteered together to host bi monthly gatherings where locals and refugees could share meals, ideas, and build bridges. For youth, we led games and activities in refugee homes to help them express their emotions and experiences through play.
In 2017, I returned to the great Pacific Northwest that I had fallen in love with in college to work for Portland Tennis & Education (PT&E), a nonprofit whose vision is to create a fair learning and playing field for Portland’s most underseved youth. I love my job as Assistant Development Director & Volunteer Coordinator at St. Johns Racquet Center. We provide tuition-free, year-round programming that includes academic tutoring, STEAM activities, and literacy support. We also use tennis as a vehicle to teach life skills such as teamwork, discipline, and perseverance that are crucial to success both on and off the court. I believe one of the greatest strengths of the organization is the sense of family and community that is built. We work with youth over several years--some of them entering the program as young as kindergarten and staying in the program until they graduate high school. Our goal is to have all of our Scholar Athletes graduate from high school on-time and prepared to lead healthy lives. As their Assistant Director of Development, I focus on event planning, grant writing, and volunteer management. However, I also work with the youth in the after-school and summer program, which fuels my passion for every other part of the job.
In my free time, I volunteer with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO). As a member of their Refugee & Immigrant Mentorship program, they have partnered me with an incredibly talented young lady from Somalia. We work together towards her success, whether that be through homework help, college application assistance, or talking through issues. Besides volunteering, I like to stay active in my free time. I enjoy boxing, playing tennis, hiking, biking, and playing on a kickball team with friends. I also enjoy traveling and have a goal of visiting 30 countries before I turn 30. Only 9 more countries to go!
Tong is the Executive Director of Oregon MESA, based at PSU. Tong is passionate about the work she does because it brings equity to the education space and encourages students to think for themselves. Before her work in nonprofit management, Tong was a research scientist in tumor immunotherapy. Her experience as a scientist has greatly shaped the work she does now; “As a scientist, I realized how hierarchical and exclusive the systems are for technical and scientific fields. There’s such a lack of representation and a lack of encouragement at most levels. That really fuels a lot of what I do now. I don’t feel like a lot of the experiences that my colleagues and I went through had to happen because we were women, young, or inexperienced. There are so many bright ideas that come from people of different backgrounds and society is missing out on them because the environment hasn’t fostered their growth.”
Outside of work, Tong enjoys traveling and going on day trips with her husband. She’s also a proponent of Asian dramas because she likes the completeness of stories. “I get frustrated with a lot of American TV shows that don’t have an end. All the Asian dramas have around fifteen episodes and that’s the whole show and there’s no more.” She has also begun to write a book about business strategy. This book would target early career professionals and offer management tips that she’s learned over the years and that she wishes were presented in a more relatable manner. She is passionate about helping young professionals in both her work and her free time!
Tong describes herself as an optimistic person, which is why she likes being part of ninety-nine girlfriends. “It’s really easy to get cynical and believe that it’s not going to get better. A lot of what I like to do is about helping make a better future for myself and others if I can. That depends, however, on believing that people, including myself, can change and the situations can change too.”