One of the unique strengths of the Young Women’s Leadership Challenge (YWLC) is every student’s year-long commitment to design and execute a Take Action Challenge (TAC), a community service project and “social enterprise,” which is a business whose mission it is to make a positive social impact on a community.

Our YWLC Mentorship Program has been one of the key elements of our alumni’s success! Since we implemented the program and paired each student up with a professional female mentor, our students’ rate of TAC project completion has increased exponentially! Thank you to all of our mentors, who hold the very important role of empowering our high school leaders with real-life advice and guidance.

How It Works

Mentors are paired with their mentee at the end of the Young Women’s Leadership Challenge Summer Conference, which is a six-day leadership intensive that kicks off the year-long YWLC program. Each student is assigned a mentor with whom they will work with for the rest of the academic school year.

Students are required to have a minimum of two meetings per semester – one in the fall and one in the spring. We encourage our students and mentors to work closely together and stay connected! Mentors guide students throughout the TAC journey and help them craft realistic goals, as well as provide support and professional connections for the participants.

Our mentorship team is made up of professional female mentors from diverse backgrounds and fields – business, law, non-profit, oil & gas, art, education, philanthropy, etc.

Get to know some of our mentors:

Hi, I’m Sydney and I’m going on my fourth year of being a Mentor for YWLC! In 2018 I started as an intern while studying nonprofit management at University of Houston. Four years later I’m still in love with Pangea, Nicole, and the whole Team! I’m passionate about being a mentor because I’ve seen how truly life changing this Challenge and program can be. Every young woman deserves an opportunity to grow and be challenged by other strong young women!

When I’m not working as a Grants Coordinator and volunteering for awesome mentees, I’m playing with my daughter, two dogs and hanging with their Dad. Our favorite things include live music, hiking to watering holes and eating new foods. Other than that I’m just trying to grow and bloom like all of you!

My name is Sonja McCain and I am a Commercial Relationship Manager with Trustmark Bank in The Woodlands, TX. I have been in the Banking industry for 21 years, and have had the pleasure of serving commercial customers for the past 11 years. A customer introduced me to Nicole and to The Pangea Network and YWLC in 2017. After learning more about their mission and vision, I could not wait to get involved.

Money and finances can be such a taboo subject. After having made many financial blunders in my own life, I began on a path with the ultimate goal of educating young adults by sharing personal experiences and lessons learned in hopes that they will become informed and empowered as they enter the next stage of their lives. I have the privilege of being one of the guest speakers during YWLC on Financial Literacy day where participants engage in a life choices/budgeting simulation which is followed by a number of real life examples while walking through 8 stages of money.

I have had the opportunity to participate in the Take Action Challenge as a mentor over the last 3 years. I continue to be amazed by the passion and perseverance that each of these young women pour into their TAC’s, and am honored to be part of the impact they are making by providing as much or as little advice and guidance needed. I am excited to welcome another year of Take Action Challenges and look forward to working alongside the participants to watch their vision come to life!

Hi, I’m T’shai Christopher, I am 19 years old and from Spring, TX. I am a rising junior at the University of Houston studying supply chain management and proud alumni of The Pangea Network’s Young Women’s Leadership Challenge (YWLC) Conference. I attended the conference during my third year of high school as a reserved, doubtful, and confused teenager. Before applying, I was nervous… this was completely out of my comfort zone and I was skeptical to be around people I didn’t know. Instantly upon arriving, I felt safe and uplifted; I was intrigued by the connections and topics I was introduced to. YWLC instilled in me the necessary skills to be a capable and influential leader in my community. I was taught skills like assertiveness, the power of vulnerability, resilience, and emotional intelligence. I have so much gratitude for The Pangea Network for shaping me into the woman that I am today and simply believing in me to grow into my potential. I would not be even halfway where I am standing today. As of 2021, this will be my third year mentoring and my time becoming a lead intern! I am so honored to be in these positions. I find immense elation in supporting young women grow into confident, capable individuals- just as YWLC has done for me. I mentor because I want to further extend the support that The Pangea Network has given me, to others. I take action in my community by helping others do the same!

Hello! My name is Beni Patel, I was born in Nairobi, Kenya, and came to the US for my college education to study biology. I got hooked on learning and went on to get my first Masters in Forestry and a second Masters in Environmental Biology. Currently I am the CEO of Tessellations Incorporated, which is a consulting company I started 23 years ago. I am married and have two amazing daughters Niki and Maya and an incredibly supportive husband, Paresh. My daughters have been involved with Pangea Network over the years and introduced me to Nicole Minor who I am in awe of! They have taken their experience with the Pangea Network and are actively engaged in solving problems encountered by marginalized populations.

My favorite quote is: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. -Mahatma Gandhi. I try to live by this and proactively engage in my community to fix issues that are important to me.

Also, I do believe glass ceilings exist for women in the workplace but they are glass and can be shattered! Your participation in YWLC is preparing you to shatter glass ceilings.

I have been mentoring with YWLC for several years and get great pleasure in meeting, mentoring, and learning from these young ladies. Many TAC projects have been inspirational for me and it is heartwarming to see such young people think of ways to improve society for all. I am looking forward to helping my mentees be successful in their TAC.

Rachel Helten is a dance artist, choreographer, and teacher currently based on the unceded indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō (Stolo), and Səl̓ílwəta/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. (Vancouver, B.C.). In 2016, she completed her BFA in Dance at Simon Fraser University. The cornerstones of Rachel’s practice are found in deep listening, collaboration, interdisciplinary methods and unearthing the stories that live within our bodies.

She has been blessed to be a part of processes that nurture these fascinations with a vast array of artists. Her work has been presented at various venues around the lower mainland. Rachel desires to honour our histories and the poetry of nature through her work. She also works as a reiki master practitioner, sound bath practitioner and meditation teacher. Her work as a healer and artist has profoundly transformed how she perceives and interacts with the world around her. Rachel had the honour of working with YWLC last year as a mentor and was deeply inspired by each participant.

I am Ozlem Adra. I am a non-profit executive at a local Houston 501(C) 3 organization with 8 years of experience in project management, fundraising and event planning; and a language consultant with over 15 years of experience in the field of tech localization. As President and now the youngest Chairperson of ATA-Houston, I organized four annual street festivals with around 10,000 participants, spearheaded a Music Festival in partnership with Rice University and Asia Society, and built a partnership with MFAH Cinema to promote Turkish cinema in Houston. I have consulted global tech companies such as Google, Apple and Blackboard on their language needs in their target markets, and have contributed to improving access to tech products across emerging communities.

I am passionate about performing arts, and have danced professionally for all my adult life, teaching Argentine Tango across the US as a visiting teacher and helping build tango communities. I also serve on the Board of a grassroots voter turnout organization.

I was born in Turkey, and arrived in the US as an exchange student after high-school, a time during which I was honored at West Point Military Academy for my contributions to the friendship between Turkey and the US at age 18. I have a BA in Language Studies and an MA in European Studies. When I am not working, I like to walk, cycle or play tennis under the Houston sun.

“It is incredibly energizing and uplifting when you see a bunch of young women thinking outside the box to solve societal problems. In the process of helping, I always generate ideas for what I would like to work on in my community next. The whole experience is very gratifying and inspiring.” – Beni Patel

“Being a mentor for the Young Women’s Leadership Challenge has brought me a profound sense of purpose and inspiration.

It warms my heart to witness such incredible bravery, generosity and kindness. I love feeling a sense of community as we work together to bring about positive global change. It is empowering to revel in our unity and differences and allow it to transform us as we continue to learn from one another.

I adore connecting 1-on-1 with my beautiful mentees. Hearing their stories and aspirations brings me hope for our world. I love our monthly meetings, where we connect and learn from different speakers each with a message of truth and love.

My role as a mentor has been enormously fulfilling. Vastly, due to the grace I am gifted with each time I connect with a member of YWLC.

The women I am mentoring are lion-hearted individuals with unequivocal passion, brilliance and devotion to bringing about more compassion, justice, love and peace to our world. I am in awe by them and feel emboldened to continue sharing my light in the world. Earnestly I trust, together we will rise. Together we can change the world.” – Rachel Helten