“The role of sisterhood has definitely evolved since joining Aya Inc. When I joined the organization, I thought the mentor-mentee relationship would remain between the pairs that were assigned at our first meeting. Since then, I have formed bonds with several of he mentors and mentees in my cohort. When I encounter a dilemma in my academic or professional career, i has become second nature to reach out to these ladies for guidance. ” says Jana'e, a junior at Howard University. “The organization has been essential to my professional and personal growth, and I am extremely grateful.”
Jana'e joined the second cohort of Aya, Inc.’s undergraduate class. After she obtains her bachelor degree, she plans to earn an MD/PhD and become a heart surgeon. This past summer, she interned at the University of California San Diego in the STARS program and completed a project in computational genetics. "Seeing so many women of diverse backgrounds thriving in their careers strengthens my confidence and belief that my career goals are achievable."
Jana'e now serves as the Logistics Coordinator for the high school enrichment activities of Aya Inc. She will be working along with a young professional mentor, Andrea Dashiell, on the upcoming College Fair and other college preparation activities for the High School mentees.
Andrea is a first year doctoral student at Regent University where she is studying Strategic Leadership. Currently, Andrea serves as serves as the co-chair of High School Enrichment for Aya, Inc with Jana'e Waugh. "The pathways of communication evolves from a vertical aspect of mentor/mentee to a more horizontal level of leader to leader. We all learn and grow from each other." Together, Andreea and Jana'e are developing a college fair, college tour, and ways to connect high school students to scholarships and other resources.
"It was important to me to become a leader in Aya, Inc. because most don't understand just how critical it is for young Black women to have someone in their life to say 'I've been through it' or 'I can help you' especially in a professional sense." Andrea is entering her third year as a young professional mentor with Aya, Inc. She has been instrumental to training other young professional mentors, serving as a mentor to multiple undergraduate students, and lead workshops. She sees Aya, Inc. as an organization that could have a national and global presence in the years to come.
“The most exciting day of my junior year, was when I received a call indicating that I had been accepted as an intern in Senator Boxers office. Had it not been for the Aya workshop on networking, I wouldn’t have made the connection that I needed to get my foot in the door” says Nyema, a graduating senior at Howard University. “Aya, Inc. both prepared and introduced me to young professionals who would help me to grow. As I approach graduation, I am ten times for confident, more prepared, and I feel more supported.”
Nyema joined the first cohort of Aya, Inc.’s undergraduate class. She sees herself in politics, possibly as a lawyer or as executive of a big political firm in DC. She also loves cosmetology and secretly hopes to open up her own luxury hair boutique and start her own hair care line one day. For this reason, we paired her with Andrea Dashiell, a government worker and part time bakery owner. They connected on a professional level because Andrea was able to share what it is like to have a regular 9-5 job and a side hustle. “Every component of Aya, Inc. has been tremendously impactful. Especially mentorship component. Andrea has been incredibly helpful in allowing me a safe space to map out my goals and has pushed me to build a road map for my professional life.”
Nyema’s current internship was developed because of a relationship that she built with one of Aya, Inc.’s guest speakers, Alicia. She is currently finishing her internship on Capitol Hill and studying for the focus on the best way to fuse all of her interest and her passions into a impactful career. In addition to transitioning into her next phase of academic and professional development, she is also a very engaged mentor to her mentee, Beshae, a high school student from Ward 8. “Beshae and I are getting to know each other and the Aya workshops lay a great foundation for what we hope will be a long lasting mentor/mentee relationship.”
When asked about her thoughts on the future of Aya, Inc., Nyema replied “When I helped with conducting the interviews for the new cohort, I remembered why organizations like Aya Inc. matter and I look forward to one day giving back to it, just as it has given to me.”
“I’m an only child, so the sisterhood component of the program was the most impactful for me” says Tyla, a rising junior at Howard University. “Being able to connect, grow, and learn from women who are my age, older, and some who are even younger, helped me to better understand who I am and what type of professional I want to be”
Tyla joined the first cohort of Aya Inc.’s undergraduate class. She has dreams of becoming an attorney and also has a passion for community service. Last summer, Tyla interned on a city council campaign in New York where she engaged with people from various industries and backgrounds. While she was able to make many connections, she was unsure about how to follow up and properly network. “It sounds silly but I would shy away from continuing to engage professionals that could offer me jobs in the future because I didn’t know how. Should I call them or wait for them to call me? If I called, how soon was too soon? When does the opportunity pass? And when I talk to them, how can I clearly tell them that I am interested in learning more about their work without it being awkward.” One of the most helpful workshops for Tyla was the session on networking. “It felt good to just practice and it was great to have a conversation about what networking is and how I could use it to my benefit. I also enjoyed the panelist in that session because they each gave a different perspectives and tips that I used throughout the semester. One of the biggest lessons that I learned from that session wasn’t necessarily how to network but it was how to affirm myself and feel confident enough to try it.”
Tyla is currently finishing a summer internship program at Proskauer Rose, an international law firm in New York. During her interview, she wore her hair natural and mentioned that her confidence was unwavered. “I felt more prepared than I had in any other interview. I attribute much of that to Aya, Inc. and specifically the conversations that we had about what it means to be a young Black professional in settings where you are the minority”. Tyla is excited to return to Howard University this fall and she is excited about transitioning from being a mentee to a mentor. “I cant wait to meet my mentee and I look forward to watching Aya, Inc. grow. It’s a blessing to have been part of the first cohort of girls who went through this awesome program. I know that Aya will only get better from here.”