Her Idea: Grassroots Mentorship Program for Young Women in the Bay Area

Scarlet Schwenk, Managing Editor

How one Bay Area native is taking on the role of mentorship for budding Bay Area artists

As women’s history continues to evolve, women are taking on leadership roles in an expansive way, weaving their ways into industries across the board. 

Her Idea, a Bay Area-based organization, seeks to validate young women’s ideas to take initiative in their education and career development. 

Anna Bukareva, the executive director, says the organization seeks to instill confidence in young women, empowering them to take control of their learning journey as they transition from high school to college, eventually into the “real world.” Her Idea serves as a network for young women to curate crucial interpersonal relationships to assist them in succeeding further down the road in whatever they choose to pursue. 

“We create an environment where there are meetings with professional mentors, wellness workshops, an initial pitch event, ongoing support, check-ins, project development, career skills workshops, and a big final presentation so they have a place to showcase their projects in front of an audience,” Bukareva explained. 

The organization focuses on the transformative power of personal projects, allowing the young women in the program to focus on their passions, pursuing their mediums under supervision. Having a space for women to showcase their work is crucial in enabling them to achieve a similar level of awareness to the public eye that men in the same field have the privilege of doing. 

Her Idea actively seeks out partnerships with Bay Area schools and teachers to provide year-round mentoring and support as high school students continue their transition from public school to the world’s workforce. 

Over the few years, Bukareva has seen an overall impact on the confidence, leadership, and communication skills of the young women who participated in the program. Presenting workshops to over 1000 students from public high schools in the Bay Area, Her Idea has garnered over $75,000 in youth project funding, with over $30,000 in the current program year. 

As the pandemic continues to wear on high school seniors, Bukareva has noticed overall burnout and reduced engagement as they look towards their college future. 

“Sarah Ecker, a current high school senior at an art school, felt out of place in school and did not feel like she could fully create and express herself the way she wanted to,” Bukareva explained, adding, “Her junior year, she began to develop her idea of creating a music production studio within the school and it immediately inspired her to be more creative and inspired her future career goals.” 

With the help of Her Idea, Sarah went on to develop a music production program, Youth Recording Studio for youth, teaching audio engineering classes and is now building a music production studio. 

Her impressive mentees don’t stop there. 

Ellie Stokes, who graduated during the pandemic, founded the Big Leap Collective,  a nonprofit located in the Bay Area “with a mission to empower independent and diverse artists through inclusive and accessible events, education and mutual aid,” Bukareva detailed. 

Another mentee, Dasha Yurkevich, organized Youth Bike America to promote climate change awareness while simultaneously encouraging people to find alternative transportation to cars. 

Burkavera noted the importance of trusting children to learn the importance of responsibility and autonomy to take on leadership roles later in life. Confidence and excitement exude from the students as Her Idea endows their mentees with trust, understanding they are capable of taking on leadership roles now. 

Her Idea has “a very collaborative working environment. We are a very new organization, so we focus on encouraging innovation and team problem solving and speaking up with ideas. Leadership roles are created when the need arises. We are in the developmental stage, and ultimately our philosophy and mission is clear, but methodology is developing as we go,” Burkavera explained.  

Her Idea plans to expand its reach to more young women across the Bay Area to enable more pitch opportunities and networking, extending a hand to more schools. The program has its eyes set on fostering opportunities for students who don’t have capstone project programs in their schools. Yet, funding remains the roadblock. 

As far as getting the program started, the process had been a matter of branching out from volunteer work in senior seminar classes, recognizing the great need for this type of project based learning and supportive career mentoring, and asking all my friends to join the mentor network, all who shared they wished they had this type of support when they were younger,” Burkavera detailed, adding, “Ultimately, I decided not to wait and just started now; I often talk about how this organization is an example of a project the girls can do.”

Her Idea took off in May 2021, landing their first grant in Jan. 2022 and has been a volunteer based organization as a result of minimal funding. Nevertheless, Her Idea persisted, signaling to young women a dream of pursuing their entrepreneurial goals. 

Start now. Talk about it. Find out who’s interested. Build a team, don’t try and do it by yourself. Start with something small. Don’t wait until you feel like you’re ready. Identify what you can do now, start doing, and other things will come.

To learn more about this program, see the true power of these projects as the students present their final presentations at the Her Idea Gala on May 26, 2022. Tickets will be available at www.heridea.org.

Her Idea also takes on student interns who work as a part of our team to develop program content – curriculum, media and artwork – and organize key events supporting and promoting student projects