KESHO offers mentors for young students

Heidi Gregori-Gahan stood amidst tables decorated from eight different countries and thanked the eager faces of Colleen McGovern’s fifth grade class for coming last week.

The Assistant Provost for International Programs asked the girls whether they knew what a mentor was.

“Your teacher, Ms. McGovern, might call me her mentor,” Gregori-Gahan said. “But a mentor can sometimes become a mentee. Ms. McGovern is such an inspiration to me, and you are all very lucky to have her as a teacher.”

KESHO is a program created to allow fifth grade girls to be mentored by international women across the globe in hopes of creating a community of empowerment and increased awareness of the world outside the United States.

Colleen McGovern said she created the program in response to her experience studying abroad in India, as well as responding to the needs she saw in her own young girls.

“Fifth grade is a huge transition year for girls,” McGovern said. “They become aware of the world around them, and they become more interested in the social aspect of life.”

McGovern said KESHO was her way of rekindling the passion of learning that so many lose when they transition from childhood to adolescence. McGovern said she wanted her girls to look at issues that are important and affect them.

“We tackle issues such as self-image, self-confidence and understanding the pressures society places on them as women” McGovern said.

McGovern said connecting with college age women across the globe has been such an important aspect of conquering those issues.

“By talking to these women, my students realize they aren’t isolated,” McGovern said. “They realize there are women all over the world dealing with the same things they are.”

McGovern said the message of the program, “girls can change the world,” came solely from her students.

“They know the point of tackling their personal issues is so they can be empowered to change the world” McGovern said. “I am glad my girls understand this so young. When I went to India to study abroad, a major take-away was that in order to help people you have to empower them. You have to empower them to make them want to make life better. That’s the whole point of this.”

McGovern said she hopes to create a similar mentorship program in India.

“My dream is that my girls can partner with girls their age in India,” McGovern said. “We would correspond through letters, giving them the ability to share similar experiences with girls who live across the globe.”

McGovern said having the mentorship program be with international women is a vital part of the program.

“Obviously having a mentorship program with American women would be beneficial,” McGovern said. “But having these international women mentor them shows them their home countries are not places on a map.”

McGovern said the mentorship program creates a global community.

“That’s massive,” she said.   

Gregori-Gahan said having a program like this just for girls is important.

“People ask why we do leadership just for woman,” Gregori-Gahan said. “While I agree that leadership needs to be developed in both boys and girls, I think right now there is a greater need for women.”

Gregori-Gahan said she has been shown this greater need through workshops she leads on campus with international women and women who study abroad.

“I saw women didn’t have opportunities to come to a safe place to share their struggles with one another,” Gregori-Gahan said. “They didn’t have a place to network and empower one another.”

Gregori-Gahan said the international women who help with the program have overcome incredible challenges.

“These women inspire me,” Gregori-Gahan said. “The sign of a true leader is one who empowers others. These international women are empowering these young girls, and that’s truly inspiring.”