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Case Study: girlsBEST

girlsBEST gives college-bound students a boost

Partner Snapshot

girlsBEST is a program of the Women's Foundation of Minnesota

Areas of Work: Rural Community Leadership, Expand Opportunity

Community: Rural Minnesota

Partner Contact: Lulete Mola

Partnership Purpose: To support the Women’s Foundation program, girls Building Economic Success Together (girlsBEST) and women’s economic opportunity such as grantmaking, convening and technical assistance to groups in greater Minnesota that are preparing under-served girls for post-secondary education and future economic success.


girlsBEST is a program of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, the state’s leading philanthropy focused on gender equality. The mission of WFMN is to invest in social change to achieve equality for all women and girls in Minnesota. Founded in 1983 as the first statewide women’s fund in the country, WFMN has invested more than $16 million through social change in grantmaking to achieve equality for all women and girls in Minnesota. The girlsBEST program, which is a girls-led and girl-driven grantmaking program that increases the readiness of low-income girls, girls of color, and girls from Greater Minnesota, ages 12-18, to achieve future economic prosperity.


Since the launch of girlsBEST in 2002, the Women’s Foundation has seen that alumnae of the program are motivated to pursue post-secondary education and obtain stable, lucrative, and fulfilling jobs. “They recognize that a degree will open doors to careers, economic well-being, and a chance to make a difference in the world,” said Jess Kubis, Women’s Foundation Project Development Manager. WFMN has also established partnerships with community, technical and tribal colleges in Minnesota to support various credentialing programs that lead to increased job opportunities for women.  By investing in women and girls now, communities will benefit from intellectual and social capital in the future. These women will become entrepreneurs, job creators, mentors, and social change agents that communities need to thrive. Women given the opportunity to succeed become highly motivated to give back to their community to ensure that other girls have this same chance.

girlsBEST focuses a portion of its work on girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers in northeast Minnesota that includes a partnership with a unique engineering degree program at a community college.  “Heather (name has been changed to protect privacy) was a good student who did well in her classes and especially loved math. Her physics teacher, who had been encouraging her to pursue a career in engineering, told her about the Range Engineering Council’s Engineering Mentor Night at a local community college called Iron Range Engineering (IRE) program. IRE is a project based four-year degree program accredited through Minnesota State University, Mankato and located in Virginia, Minnesota. It’s a unique collaboration between Mesabi Range College, Itasca Community College, and Minnesota State University, Mankato. Students graduate with a B.S. in Engineering, with a focus area of their choice. The free mentor night introduces high school girls in grades 10-12 to engineering. Even though Heather was a bit shy she decided to attend the event and loved hearing female engineers talk about their work. She was inspired by the different options for getting an engineering degree and knew this was something she wanted to pursue. Heather returned home and made the decision to become an engineer student at IRE. She is now a sophomore, still friends with the same people she met that very first night at Engineering Mentor Night and says she still wakes up excited to go to school every morning.”

Foundation Support

The Blandin Foundation grant allowed WFMN to award grants, collaborate with community and technical colleges, and invest in under-resourced communities to increase economic opportunity for women and girls. GirlsBEST participants have a 93% high school graduation rate, a 90% post-secondary education enrollment rate, and a teen pregnancy rate of less than 1 per 1,000 in Minnesota overall. Through girlsBEST, WFMN was able to ensure young women are supported and can continue their education and training from high school to post-secondary enrollment “We’re on a mission to create a Minnesota where all young women thrive and are the champions of their own lives,” said Jess Kubis. “Both Blandin Foundation and the Women’s Foundation want to strengthen rural Minnesota communities and ensure all people thrive economically and enjoy safe and healthy lives. We appreciate Blandin Foundation’s appetite for investing in innovative ideas and willingness to be a long-term partner as we build programs and relationships in rural communities. We are both deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, recognizing all people, ensuring their voices are heard and working in collaboration to advance gender and racial equity.”

See details of all Women’s Foundation of Minnesota grants on this webpage.

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