Janai Nelson (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Janai Nelson (Photo credit: Courtesy)

Janai Nelson is a board of directors member for the 1,000 Dreams Fund and associate director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. She is a firm believer in mentoring young girls. A recent study revealed that 70 percent of young women don’t have a workplace mentor.

The 1,000 Dreams Fund (1DF), a national scholarship fund for American girls, has just announced the launch of their five-week #MentorMe online challenge with a chance to win one of five weekly $200 grants and an opportunity to connect with one of the professional board of directors for a mentor session by phone. Nelson is one of the mentors participating in the challenge.

Here, Nelson expounds on the #MentorMe online challenge and what keeps her inspired.

What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I am a civil rights lawyer and I have the privilege of helping to lead the first and oldest civil and human rights law organization in the country —the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. LDF was founded 76 years ago by legal mastermind Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first African American justice of the United States Supreme Court. I am inspired both by the legacy that I carry forward and by the promise of full equality and justice for future generations. I know that the rights of many marginalized people depend on the work that we do.

Please provide a general overview of the #MentorMe Challenge.
The 1,000 Dreams Fund (1DF), a national scholarship fund for American girls, has just announced the launch of their five-week #MentorMe online challenge with a chance to win one of five weekly $200 grants and an opportunity to connect with one of 1DF’s professional board of directors for a mentor session by phone.

Here’s how to enter
Duration: Oct. 11-Nov.11, 2016
Step 1: Follow us @1000DreamsFund
Step 2: Complete this sentence for Twitter:
Examples: “#MentorMe so I scale my music volunteer program @1000DreamsFund” or “#MentorMe so I can launch a new tutoring program on campus @1000DreamsFund”
Step 3: Share your Tweet.
Hint: Show your work. Share with us links to your organization, blog, etc. or photos of you following your dream for added consideration.
We’ll pick 5 weekly winners. The #MentorMe Challenge ends on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016.

Why is having strong, female mentor role models essential for personal, academic and career growth?
There are so many unique challenges to being a woman in the workplace or in school. It is important to have someone who understands on an intimate level what you may be facing and who has had similar experiences. A mentor can help you grow not only by sharing the key to her successes but also how she has failed forward. She can also give you a glimpse of what is possible for a woman. A strong mentor will help you identify your strengths and opportunities to use and develop them.

Describe the future skill sets that are essential to future business leaders and innovators.
Future leaders and innovators must possess a diverse set of hard and soft skills, as well as the ability to navigate an increasingly global marketplace. This not only means honing your academic skills to the point of excellence, but also refining interpersonal and leadership skills and embracing diversity of all kinds.

Describe why lifelong learning is important to you.
Being a student never ends. Life always has something to teach you–through academics, your relationships, your career, your journey. The key is to be open to receiving life’s lessons and to be intentional about the pursuit of knowledge. Ask questions. Read books. Listen. Figure out what you don’t know, what makes you feel nervous or insecure, or what piques your curiosity and take the initiative to find out about it. Learning is the most lasting indulgence.

Names three books that changed how you see life and that you recommend to others.
1. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield was wildly popular when I was a young adult. It taught me a lot about perception and different ways to see the world.

2. The Autobiography of Malcolm X is an all-time classic and taught me about dignity and self-transformation. It shows how important it is to allow your ideas, thoughts, and even your convictions, to evolve as you continue to grow and learn.

3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is a fun book that teaches you how to center happiness in your life. No matter what career you choose, you should find joy in it and joy in life outside of it.

Yvette Caslin

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