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Lead(h)er Celebrates Four Years

Credit Lead(h)er
Exec. Dir. Megan Hasselroth (center) with Girl on Fire award winners Rumaisa Rahman Khawaja (left) and Cara Joiner (right).

During a virtual 4th birthday celebration in September, Lead(h)er shared stories from its more than 300 matches of female mentors and mentees, highlighted successes, and announced the 2020 Girl on Fire Award winners.

The awards honor Mentor of the Year and Mentee of the Year - women nominated by their peers who show exceptional commitment. Lead(h)er offers free mentorship to young professionals, free networking, guest speakers, and professional development, as well as an inspirational spark to serve their community. The Mentor of the Year is Cara Joiner, a home care consultant at Home Instead Senior Care Quad Cities. Her first mentee, Lilie Johnson, was last year’s Mentee of the Year.

The 2020 Mentee of the Year is Rumaisa Rahman Khawaja, a life, relationship, and personal development coach at Mandala Integrative Medicine, who has also become a mentor.

The special event was led for the first time by Lead(h)er Executive Director Megan Hasselroth, who joined the nonprofit last January, succeeding Sarah Stevens. A 30-year-old Sherrard High School grad, Hasselroth earned her master’s degree at Adler University in Chicago, in nonprofit management. She has worked six years in higher education and first became a mentee in 2018, under Amber Wood, a former director of the Quad-Cities Red Cross who helped lead Hasselroth to this new career path.

Credit Lead(h)er

“It was kind of her that helped me along and turned my passion for helping others and my formal education, and helped me turn that into the next step.” 

After Hasselroth got her bachelor’s degree at Western Illinois University, she worked a year with AmeriCorps in Davenport, with Big Brothers Big Sisters, serving at-risk youth, matching them with mentors.

“You could say that mentorship comes naturally, because I’ve worked in a couple places, but I didn’t experience life in the same way most people do. And so I needed a lot of mentors to teach me how to navigate working with diverse communities.”

“I can attribute a significant amount of my current success to my mentor through Lead(h)er. She taught me a lot of things, but she taught me that who I am as a person right now is OK. I’m enough and that being able to help people the way that I have in the past is a great foundation to help women in a similar way, but in a different platform. She kind of like believed in me, when I had a lot of doubts about my skills and abilities.”

“So I do put a lot of recognition on her for me being in this role, because otherwise, I would be like, ‘I’m not gonna apply; I’m fresh in the nonprofit world, why would they want me? All of those reasons helped make me a good ED (executive director), because I do epitomize our mission.”

Hasselroth says mentorship – to help guide and support women through their personal, professional, and volunteer lives – is crucial to build success. Lead(h)er makes those matches between young and more experienced professionals.

“We want to empower women to give back to their communities in a greater way and to connect with other people in their lives, that utilize them as mentors, because mentorship is important. It’s essential business in our world today. Connection is the number-one thing that’s keeping people going and when you have someone you can lean on – not only about your professional situation, but your personal situation as well.”

“Being a mom and e-learning with your three kids would be a really hard thing right now. Just having that support – I’m struggling too, but here’s how I’m getting through it. Here’s how I’m trying to compartmentalize what’s going on in the world.”

And she thinks with this year's economic devastation, Lead(h)er is needed more than ever, and matches are finding ways to communicate other than in-person.

In its four years, Lead(h)er has made over 300 matches, and there is a waiting list. For applications to be a mentor or mentee and more information, visit www.leadherqc.org.

A native of Detroit, Herb Trix began his radio career as a country-western disc jockey in Roswell, New Mexico (“KRSY, your superkicker in the Pecos Valley”), in 1978. After a stint at an oldies station in Topeka, Kansas (imagine getting paid to play “Louie Louie” and “Great Balls of Fire”), he wormed his way into news, first in Topeka, and then in Freeport Illinois.