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AUM Foundation helps girls build skills to enter workforce

MADISON – A local business leader, Alka Bhargav realized that mentors could assist young women in high school to prepare for the future. Bhargav’s answer was to establish the AUM Foundation and serve as its Executive Director.

“The AUM Foundation offers guidelines in the Pathway 2 Success or P2S program for under-resourced, female high-school students in their senior year,” Bhargav said. “This workforce readiness program allows the student to gain experience and insight into their career path, while also building life skills to aid them in breaking generational poverty.”

Bhargav explained that “AUM” is not an acronym; it’s a sound made during meditation. “To me, it means your universe, your soul,” she said.

In Pathway 2 Success, mentors encourage participants to use a comprehensive education and career plan. For resources, students will use mentoring, enrichment classes and job shadowing.

An all-day seminar on ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion’ has had major impact for students and has helped them create community advocacy plans.

“(The girls) receive additional resources, like a scholarship and laptop computer, to support them in higher education,” Bhargav said. “Our program’s end goal is to provide our girls with the tools to achieve higher education degrees, economic independence, and, in turn, give back to the community.”

The process is working. “Many students have first and foremost attained the goal of going to college – many as first in their families. Our amazing mentors are a huge support in that goal,” Bhargav said. “We’re seeing the first of students graduate from four-year colleges. Next year, we’ll see our first two go to law school and medical school,” Bhargav said.

Madison Hospital has been a major partner in P2S’s effort. “Every year, we gather all students interested in medical careers, and Madison Hospital professionals talk to our students. Kids gain truly useful information and a glimpse in the day of that professional.”

For example, Bhargav learned about the surgical tech apprenticeship, which doesn’t require a college degree but pays students as they learn.

Mary Lynne Wright, Madison Hospital President, said Alka Bhargav’s work “shows what can happen when people choose to get involved. It’s truly a phenomenal program. Madison Hospital has been involved by talking with students about healthcare opportunities and, pre-COVID, had them shadowing in the hospital.”

To help with job searches, P2S offers a class on interviewing skills, business attire at interviews, resumes and mock interviews. The foundation’s website has a job board for companies to post internships and entry level jobs. (aumfoundationusa.org/career-accelerator-network)

Pathway 2 Success has three full-time employees and is recruiting an executive director. Demetria Horton is Operations Director.

For more information, call 256-724-3625, email Demetria.horton@aumfoundationusa.org or visit aumfoundationusa.org.

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