City Year Little Rock is matching a baker's dozen young women, ages 18-24, emerging into the workforce with experienced female mentors in a new program called the Women's Leadership Council.
The launch for the program, "designed to enhance professional development for the education nonprofit's AmeriCorps members who identify as female," according to a news release, is March 8 (International Women's Day) at the Women's City Club in downtown Little Rock.
The program's co-chairs, Dr. Creshelle Nash, medical director for Health Equity and Public Programs at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Stephanie Streett, executive director of the Clinton Foundation, are both among the mentors.
"I'm looking forward to learning something from these young women," Streett says.
The inaugural class includes 13 AmeriCorps members; mentors come from the worlds of business, law, health care, education and other fields, "at various stages of their own careers," Nash says.
Streett and Nash say their role is matching mentors with City Year participants, "then create an atmosphere in which to break the ice and start relationships."
"Mentees" will interact with their mentors at least once a month over a four-month period in the workplace and casually, each pairing taking place on its own terms.
For the first year, Nash explains, "We wanted to keep it organic."
"We don't want to overstructure it," Streett adds.
The idea, she says, is for the young women to spend "one-on-one time with people in positions in which they can see themselves," build relationships, following which the young woman can "utilize those skills in other aspects of their careers."
Streett, who co-chaired the City Year Little Rock board for 11 years, is now "just a member" of the board, "and happy to be one."
She served for eight years in the administration of former President Bill Clinton, who, she explains, first encountered City Year in Boston while running for the White House in 1992 and wished to create an Arkansas branch. When she left the administration in 2001, she helped put Clinton's wish into effect with the help of Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore.
Streett notes the approach of the 30th anniversary of Clinton signing, in 1993, the National and Community Service Act, which among other things led to the creation of AmeriCorps.
Nash, meanwhile, has been "a great friend of City Year" for many years, Streett says. The daughter of Clinton friend and associate Bob Nash, she was "top of mind" when it came to recruiting a "strong, dynamic woman would give of herself," as Streett describes her.
Nash, who got her medical degree at the the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in 1994 and earned a master's degree in public health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in 1998.
Back in Arkansas, she has worked for the Clinton School of Public Service, the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and at UAMS' College of Medicine.
She's leading Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield's efforts to address health disparities in Arkansas and support the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association on its recently launched National Health Equity Strategy.
"My passion is health equity," she says. "The core of that is education."
City Year's long-term relationship with the Little Rock School District is critical to its success, Streett adds: AmeriCorps members deliver one-on-one academic interventions and whole-school support as student success coaches to students at Mabelvale Middle School, Stephens Elementary, Cloverdale Middle School and J.A. Fair K-8 Preparatory School. The Women's Leadership Council will now become part of their yearlong leadership development program.
Streett, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, now oversees the strategy and management of the Clinton Presidential Center and the Clinton Foundation's Presidential Leadership Scholars program. She and husband Don Erbach are the parents of three teenage daughters.
The idea for the program, she explains, arose out of discussions with City Year executive director Jennifer Cobb, "because we recognized the importance mentorship has been in our own careers."
Nash, who says she is still in regular touch with a mentor she has had for more than 40 years, says the goal is "planting the seed that grows into giving back."
The launch of City Year Little Rock's Women Leadership Council takes place 9:30-10:30 a.m. March 8 -- International Women's Day -- at the Junior League of Little Rock, 401 Scott St. Visit cityyear.org/little-rock.