Live For Yourself: A Trailblazer’s Voice

This post was written by ABF Trailblazer Colibri, D2D ’18, who used her grant to participate in her school’s all-girls FIRST Robotics team.

Girls come to face with the mirror that can change the way they look at themselves and the world around them. Some girls take a route where they try to make themselves invisible and where they are embarrassed to show their true talents and/or afraid to ask questions and appear weak; other girls take a route where they feel overwhelmed to fit a certain expectation of who they should be, how they should look, what should they do with their life, and the dos and don’ts of society—and these are only a couple examples. These situations can sometimes derive from the stereotypes that revolve around us. It is society’s perspective that must change, although this cannot happen without us changing it first. Not long ago, a cousin was telling me that I am not living for anyone else and nobody is living for me and that I should only live for myself. I had never really thought about it that way before, but it really stuck with me. I don’t have to be perfect at everything I do, and it’s okay to make mistakes and learn, and try new things and be willing to take risks. Taking risks has always been a fear of mine because I am afraid of failure. I have taken risks; some I might have failed in and in others, I haven’t—but, I would have never known if I hadn’t tried. And, yes, I look back now and think, maybe I would have never known this or had this amazing experience or opportunity if I hadn’t pulled myself together and told myself, “What do I have to lose?”


September 2019 Recommendations

Each month on this blog, we’re planning to share some recommendations for books, articles, podcasts, TV shows, films, music, and more from grantees, mentors, staff, and other members of the ABF community. Here are our September recommendations.


This month’s book recs come from ABF Trailblazer Colibri.

Courageous and inspiring books that I have loved:

  • Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sánchez

[These novels] are all fantastic stories about women trying to find their place and be empowered.


Check out some of our favorite articles that we shared this summer.

If you have any media to recommend related to our mission to help girls gain confidence and reach their full potential, email us at

Back To School: A Mentor’s Perspective

This post was written by Michelle Storm, an educator at St. Paul City School and an ABF mentor.

Regenerating. Getting fit and healthy. Face to a warm sun bath. Reconnecting with family and friends. Reunions. Hammock time. A Willa Cather reading run. Cultural events to share with students. D.C. in mid-summer heat; soul-filling visits to the Frederick Douglass home and Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial.

Seeking new ideas—through training or everyday experiences.  

…These are all ways teachers prepare for the new school year! Welcome back, amazing, dedicated, caring, compassionate, and PASSIONATE teachers!  

Five days into the new school year, feeling both joyous exhilaration and bone deep exhaustion, I have to close my eyes and breathe to remember summer days…that wasn’t too long ago, right?  

The simple things—walking my dog and working in my garden—those experiences made me think of finding a pet reading buddy for my classroom or starting a community garden in our third grade.  

And they made me think of spending time with two special mentees. The 1:1 experiences with each restore and give me hope and optimism for the future.  

Monserrath, now in sixth grade, had a dream to be on stage. She loved seeing High School Musical and specifically wanted to build her confidence. With the support of an Ann Bancroft Foundation grant, Monserrath dared to dream. She tried out the performer’s world, as surely as she tried on costumes at Steppingstone Theater musical theater camps this summer. The pride and shining smile on Monserrath’s face as she sang and danced in the week’s culminating performances were proof of her success.   

Our students at St. Paul City School face every imaginable trauma, from poverty and homelessness, to immigration, to violence in their homes or communities. I don’t ever try to “fix” anything for my students or families. Trying to address these large and often systematic problems would only overwhelm and sink my psyche—and efforts.  

Instead, I try to focus on small, daily, very concrete steps. For example, teaching peace, resilience, and problem-solving skills. These are the tools I hope each of my students can carry with them throughout life. I don’t want to do anything for them that they cannot do themselves. Instilling literacy and communication tools are my top priority.  

When it comes to girls, I believe they face the same issues of the past.  Sexism, low self-esteem, media’s portrayal of ideal body images, and the sexualization and fetishization of young girls of all races and cultures. Only now, due to technology and internet use, these societal failures are magnified and on fast-forward.  

I want to see mentees having authentic interactions in real, everyday situations. As their teacher, my hope is that they build their whole selves. This includes using technology in healthy, balanced, innovative ways that enhance—not harm—their lives. I think the Ann Bancroft Foundation grants help girls to rise above negative and dangerous messages and situations. Swimming, dancing, singing, rock climbing, horseback riding, ice skating, cooking and baking: these activities build girls up—body, mind and soul. Building a strong sense of safety, self, and purpose helps girls rise above the torrent of information (and misinformation) available online and on social media.  

Schools can nurture and raise up girls by giving them a safe place to explore their interests and talents. We can celebrate their successes and walk with them through failures. With organizations like ABF, we can provide resources for them to navigate their future: literacy, communication, logic, STEM, healthy relationships, and advocacy. 

My role as a teacher and mentor is to be a facilitator. Ja’Shae was a student I had as a 2nd grader at Hazel Park Prep Academy in St. Paul ten years ago. Now, as a high school senior, she and her mother approached me about the Ann Bancroft Foundation Dare to Dream grant. Two of Ja’Shae’s younger sisters were recipients. Ja’Shae had a dream, along with the determination and drive, to apply for the $500 grant. This was exactly the amount she needed to go on a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) fall tour, sponsored by the Progressive Black Baptist Church, St. Paul. 

Ja’Shae works relentlessly on her grades, participates in basketball, and holds down a part-time job at a pizza restaurant. All while she is helping her mom care for four younger siblings. Ja’Shae has all the makings of a success story. “I want to go where there are more people who look like me so I can learn about my culture, heritage,” she compellingly wrote in her essay. “I could go to a local community or other in-state college, but I want to learn about my history and myself. I will be the first in my family to attend college or university if this works out. My mom has done so much for me and my family—I know she will be so proud.” 

There is nothing I can do for Ja’Shae that she hasn’t already done for herself. As her teacher and cheerleader, I can only urge her on. When I read an essay and give feedback to a girl, her dream is already there, within reach. I’m simply her mentor, aka, “humble servant.”

My job is to help Monserrath and Ja’Shae’s dreams find their way forward—through people and places like the Ann Bancroft Foundation. 

Click here to find out more about becoming an ABF mentor.

Renaming Our ABF Grant Alumnae…ABF Trailblazers!

Our founder, Ann Bancroft, is one of the world’s preeminent polar explorers and an internationally recognized leader who is dedicated to inspiring women and girls around the world to unleash the power of their dreams…in other words, Ann is a trailblazer. See the woman above crossing the snow and ice? Yeah, that’s Ann.

Our ABF grant alumnae are the young women currently making tracks through this “wild country” we call the 21st century. Through their grant activities, they have made strides in pushing themselves to reach their full potential. Which, in our minds, means they are trailblazers.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts from ABF Trailblazers. In the meantime, read more about their stories on our website.

Our Winter 2019 Video Contest Runners-Up: Jacey and Kailee

Earlier this year, we launched a video contest to hear from ABF alumnae about their grant experiences. The runners-up from our competition were Jacey, D2D ’18, and Kailee, D2D ’07.

Jacey, now 12, received a Dare to Dream grant in the fall of 2018 to take cooking classes at Kitchen Window. Watch her video and hear about the process of applying for an ABF grant and why these classes will help Jacey achieve her dream.

Here is a transcript of Jacey’s video:

Hello everyone. My name is Jacey. I’m 11 years old, and my grant cycle was fall 2018. I’m about to show you an interview that I did explaining my grant experience with Ann Bancroft Foundation.

Q: Why did you choose to apply for the grant?

A: I chose to apply because I wanted to attend adult cooking classes. One, because I wanted the cooking knowledge. Two, I wanted to learn how to teach other people what I know about cooking because I want to open up my own healthy cooking school for kids.

Q: Did you enjoy the grant process?

A: I enjoyed the grant process. It was a fun couple months for me, between meeting with my mentor, filling out the application with her, smooshing them together. It was a really fun process. The only hard part was the waiting, trying to figure out whether you got notified or not in your head, like, “Did I make it? Did I make it?”

Q: How did you like having a mentor to help you?

A: I liked having a mentor. One, because she was really encouraging. Two, she helped correct my writing mistakes. And three, having new ideas and always being there for you.

I would like to say a big, big thank you to the Ann Bancroft Foundation for allowing me to achieve my dreams by giving me the grant money. It meant a lot to me. Cooking is one of my biggest passions, so that really made me happy that I would be able to attend those cooking classes. If you are looking to apply for the grant, I would definitely tell you yes. It was a wonderful experience for me, and I would love for you to have your dreams achieved through the Ann Bancroft Foundation.

Kailee received her ABF grant back in 2007 and currently works as a financial adviser. She also started a nonprofit that helps survivors of domestic violence. Watch Kailee talk about the impact of her Dare to Dream grant when she was in middle school.

Here is a transcript of Kailee’s video:

Hi, my name is Kailee Soderlund, and I received a grant from the Ann Bancroft Foundation in the spring of 2007 to attend track and field camp at the University of Minnesota.

I was in middle school, and being a girl in middle school is really tough sometimes—take it from somebody that’s been there and is really glad she’s not in middle school anymore!

During that season of my life, my parents were in the process of getting a divorce, and as my dad was leaving I asked him, “Dad, why are you doing this?” And he said, “I have to choose between my happiness and my kids, and I’m choosing my happiness.”

And the biggest thing that the grant did for me during that time was there was a school counselor who invited me to apply for the grant, and ultimately became my formal mentor, and she saw worthwhile pursuits in me that I did not see in myself.

Later on—fast forward to life—I now have a financial advising practice in the Twin Cities, and I also started a nonprofit for women that have gone through domestic violence and helping them get back on their feet financially. And as we uncover needs throughout the planning process for them, whether it’s debts that they can’t pay off, or scholarships to attend school, those are things that were are able to extend through the funds generated from my personal practice.

The biggest thing that the grant taught me was that as women, we have the opportunity to mentor other women and girls that are going through tough things, and we always have the opportunity to turn our adversities into hope for them. And I’m so grateful that the Ann Bancroft Foundation extended the grant to me and put someone in my life at that time when I needed it most.

The deadline for our second 2019 video contest ($100 prize) and our first-ever photo contest ($50 prize) is the end of the day next Saturday, August 31. If you have received an ABF grant, either recently or years ago, we would love to hear your story! Your words can inspire other Minnesota girls to apply for a grant.

Our Winter 2019 Video Contest Winner: Colibri, D2D ’18

Colibri, a student at Visitation School in Mendota Heights, was awarded a Dare To Dream grant in the fall of 2018 to participate in her school’s all-girls FIRST Robotics team, The Robettes. In early 2019, ABF launched our first video competition to hear from alumnae about how they were impacted by their grant experience. Colibri’s inspiring video was the winner of our contest. She talked about what she’s learned on The Robettes, the effects of machismo culture, and being a girl in STEM.

Here is a transcript of Colibri’s video:

Hi, I’m Colibri and I’m a sophomore from Visitation, and a member of FIRST Robotics—The Robettes. This year ABF has helped me participate in Robotics.

Q: What advice would you give to other Minnesota girls who want to pursue their dreams?

A: Don’t think your dream is impossible. If you want to be an engineer, a scientist, a designer, don’t let others tell you that you cannot achieve your dream. Don’t be afraid to be unique because you were born to stand out. Always keep your head high, smile, and believe. Even though you might not have that confidence yet, you should stand firm because you can achieve every possibility. And once your confidence catches up to you, nothing will hold you back.

Q: Could you tell us how receiving the ABF grant has impacted your life, Colibri?

A: I learned that I am capable of many things. I can help make a robot, I can present in front of judges, other teams. I am no longer afraid to try something new. The grant has impacted me, giving me confidence that I can reach any possibility, like the possibility to make something more out of my life. To know that I can be anything I want to be, as long as I try. I know that I can do anything if I truly believe in myself to get there despite the challenges and difficulties that come along the way. Challenges because I am Hispanic, I come from a Latino culture, and the main environment is male-dominant. Even at home, sometimes the women in the family are faced with what we call machismo, or, in other words, “masculine pride.” And this sometimes makes it very hard to feel empowered. I do have the support of my father, but I don’t think he had ever imagined that I could possibly become an engineer. Being part of The Robettes has taught me to empower not just other women, but also myself, being able to represent women in STEM.

We are currently accepting submissions for our second video contest of the year ($100 prize), as well as a photo contest ($50 prize), and would love to hear from you if you are an ABF alumna! If you are participating in your grant activity this summer, we encourage you to take photos and videos and share your story with us.

My Time at ABF: Ruth, ABF Intern

This post was written by Ruth Rike, a recent graduate of St. Kate’s with a degree in Communications, and ABF’s intern for the 2018-2019 academic year.

The Ann Bancroft Foundation has been one of the highlights of my college career. I was welcomed into their space with open arms and lots to learn. I was fully immersed in a world of data entry and knowing the pleasure of reading the grant applications that were submitted as well as the opportunity to be a part of the Granting Committee. I learned that no matter how small the task, it can have the greatest impact on someone’s life and to always do things with a positive attitude. I had such a great time every time I was in the office because no matter how hard we were working, we always had some great conversations. Being able to attend the Ann Bancroft Foundation annual event was also one of my highlights during my time at ABF. If you have not been able to attend, I suggest that you try at least once because it is an experience you will never forget. The generosity that fills that room is like nothing I have ever experienced and it was overall a really fun time.

When originally searching for an internship, I wanted something that aligned with my studies as well as something that interested me as a person. When I discovered ABF through my university’s internship program, I knew it was something I wanted to apply for. Their mission and values were awesome and aligned with my own and the work I would be doing would absolutely prepare me for my next phase in life. When asked to write about some advice I would give to other young women about searching for an internship, here is what I would say:

Tips for Internship Searching

  • First things first, check to see what kind of skills your school is offering, if you are attending school (if not, act as though it is a job search).
  • Make sure that you are confident in your skills. Even though you may not feel like you have any, you definitely do.
  • Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone and learn something new. Gaining new skills will help you to do even more than you thought you could.
  • Be passionate. It will make the work you do an absolute breeze and will make your time there a positive one.
  • As I stated above, make sure that the opportunity you are looking into aligns with who you are and what you believe in. It will make everything much more enjoyable.
  • While at your internship: HAVE FUN! It will only make your experience so much more memorable.

Thank you so much Ann Bancroft Foundation for having me. It has been an absolute blast!

Your Intern,

St. Catherine University, Class of 2019

Hello from the Ann Bancroft Foundation!

My name is Shiraz and I’m the Marketing and Operations Assistant here at ABF. We have decided to launch a blog to showcase voices within the ABF community—alumnae, mentors, supporters, partners, interns, and more. This is also a space to share recommendations for books, articles, podcasts, TV shows, etc. that are related to our mission to help girls gain confidence and give them tools to go after their dreams.

At ABF, we like to talk about what it means to imagine something bigger, and we will hear what that means to different members of our community. If you would like to contribute to our blog, you can shoot us an email at If you’ve received an ABF grant, we would especially love to hear your perspective on the issues and challenges girls face today.

We hope you’re enjoying your summer so far. Stay tuned for more!