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McGill News featured GEM’s mentorship program

GEM’s Founder, Rochelle de Goias, was featured in McGill News Alumni Magazine. She was interview by Brenda Branswell about what inspired her to create GEM and how the organization has grown since 2012.

Here’s the full article Toronto mentors help girls facing multiple barriers by Brenda Branswell: 


Fresh out of graduate school and faced with two internship offers, Rochelle de Goias looked for a female mentor for advice. She discovered how hard it was to find one.

In the back of her mind, de Goias says, “I thought A) that was really unfair and B) at some point in my future that I would create something where there was more of a mentorship culture.”
That notion took shape in 2012 when de Goias founded Girls E-Mentorship (GEM), a Toronto-based charitable organization that provides mentoring for girls who are in grades 10 through 12.

One of her goals is to create a mentorship culture within the GTA, and eventually further afield, “so that it isn’t uncommon to have a female mentor at different points in your life and in your career,” says de Goias, BA’01. “And sort of have that old boys’ network transferred into an old girls’ network.”

The program targets girls who face multiple barriers and the schools it works with are in “neighbourhood improvement areas”, identified as such by the City of Toronto. “We had outreach into 42 different schools this year, so that just gives you an idea of how wide our reach is now,” says de Goias, a political analyst and consultant who previously worked for the Ontario government.

The program matches the high school girls with female professionals who act as mentors and work with them over a nine-month period. They stay in touch weekly, meet monthly and discuss curriculum topics. They also attend “GEMinars”, workshops on subjects like time management and interview skills.

“Each GEMinar has a topic and that’s in line with what they’re learning throughout the year,” says de Goias. A mentor and mentee might work on an elevator pitch and then refine it at the GEMinar on personal branding.

If you’re 15 or 16, looking to get a job and meeting someone for the first time, “phrasing that is very difficult for them,” she says. “We help them sort of craft what they’re thinking in their heads into something that they can convey to an adult. And then they practise it so they feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Many of the girls are newcomers to Canada or their parents are, she says. The program states that it mitigates the negative effects of poverty through the one-on-one mentorship.

They’ve discovered that sometimes the girls don’t necessarily believe that they can get out of their situation and may not have women immediately surrounding them who have been successful, says de Goias. “It’s very hard to achieve success if you can’t emulate it with someone or sort of follow what someone close to you has done.

“So that’s one way (to lessen the effects of poverty), by breaking that social divide between the mentor and the mentee and providing that guidance in order to change mentees’ self-perception.”

The program also provides paid internships to several girls, which helps them build their résumés, and offers small scholarships.

“We try and help them be able to either get into college or university through scholarships in order to get to the next level in their life so that employment opportunities are increased.”

The mentors and girls develop a very strong connection in many cases, she says. “The mentors find it extremely rewarding.” And the girls feel so confident by the end of the program, she adds.

“They have said to us that it’s really helping and changing their lives and providing them with opportunities. So it’s pretty cool.”

De Goias, who obtained a master of arts in international relations from the University of London, is married to fellow McGill graduate Duncan Jackman, BA’89.

She says there is interest at GEM in expanding the program and mentions “immense pride” when asked how the experience has been for her.

“It’s hard to describe because you feel wonderful, but it’s more than that. It has sort of taken on a life of its own. It’s my vision, but it’s bigger than me now. And it’s a lot of other people’s vision and they have improved it and made it better. So it’s incredible to be a part of this.”

Source: McGill News Alumni Magazine

How to launch a charity while being a mom

Rochelle de Goias, GEM’s Founder, was interviewed by Love, Mom on how to lead a charity that is changing the lives of high school girls in Toronto while being the mom of two little ones.  Read her full interview below.

LM: What’s a secret power you count on to keep it together?
R: “Determination. At work, I’m always thinking about a goal, for example right now, growth is top of mind. I’m singularly focused and know the team can make our charity better and bigger so we can help more people. I’m that person who to call if you have any self-doubt or if you’re having a bad day and I’ll say, ‘you can do this; you can do it with your eyes closed’. This level of motivation and intensity has allowed me to grow GEM from an idea into a reality.
I know I bring that intensity home too. I have this desire to ensure that my kids have this incredible childhood and create as many special moments as possible for them. Like so many moms, I would love them to look back on their lives and think they had the best mom. I know I stress myself out about it though. I’m really working on accepting that I can’t do everything and I have to be okay with doing what I can. I’m still getting the hang of it; I’ll stay up at night and send emails and take care some of online errands, then I’ll catch myself and shut it all down. I’m slowly figuring out the difference between being determined and doing too much.”

LM: Is launching a non-profit similar to growing a business?
R: “From the beginning, we wanted to create a charity that thought like a business. Our clients are our mentors and mentees and our investors are our donors. We’re intent on running GEM efficiently and at a low cost. For example, we have a large team of volunteers that help us reach our goals and we moved our office to the Centre for Social Innovation, a shared office space that keeps our nuts and bolts costs down.
We’re also growing the program strategically. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort on design thinking. Instead of taking a top-down approach where a goal is determined and then the steps towards that goal are created, I wanted to do it in reverse. We designed a program that began with our mentees to help us determine the goal. We spent six months consulting with local girls to discover what they needed. We also created a mentor advisory committee and asked them how we could make it easier for them to volunteer as busy working women who want to help. Then we did a pilot run, got feedback, and redesigned our approach based on what we heard. Every year we get new insights and then we tweak the program to make it better. Like any business, we have to be nimble and we can’t get stuck in one way of thinking.
The biggest difference with a traditional business, however, is that if we’re not profitable, we’re not reaching our goal of helping people. A charity relies on kindness, a compelling story and on donors and volunteers who want to make their cities and countries better. If people stopped having open hearts, a non-profit like us wouldn’t survive.”

LM: Describe a challenge you’ve had to overcome at GEM.
R: “We’re growing faster than I anticipated. It’s a good problem, but also stressful. With that growth, comes pressure to fundraise. There are a lot of girls requesting mentorship and we can only provide it for 1 in 4 girls, so we need more funding to support our programs. There are also so many areas that we want to be involved with beyond Toronto. There’s a huge need and we’re only a drop in the bucket. A part of me thought this was going to be a grass roots organization forever, and now I’m thinking about what growth looks like every day I go to work. This expansion is so exciting and the best outcome I could’ve hoped for, but naturally I wonder how am I going to manage all this while finding time to enjoy my young family?”

LM: Name a leap of faith you’ve had to take recently.
R: “Letting other people help me. When I started this, I was doing everything, then I brought in a bigger team and expanded the board.  Once I became pregnant with my second baby, my load became impossible to manage. We’ve grown to two full-time consultants (a project manager and a communications lead), a graphic designer and seven board members. Of course, I had an initial reaction to taking less of a hand’s on role. Relinquishing that kind of control took adjusting, and now I love it. I’m running the organization with women who are incredible while giving myself more time with my family.”

LM: What’s an a-ha moment that has surprised you most? 
R: “Deep down I trusted that GEM was going to help girls and I knew those girls would get to where they wanted to go. What I didn’t expect was that the community of mentors we have established would become so strong. They are incredible and like-minded women who want to hang out and create deep relationships with each other. The program gives us a chance to find out our interests, backgrounds and passions and it’s proving as valuable to the mentors as it is to the mentees.”

Interview taken from: Love, Mom.

We’re hiring: Graphic Designer (Part-Time)

GEM is looking for a part-time (10 hours per week) Junior Graphic Designer who creates aesthetically stunning work based on the organization’s strategic objectives and style.  This is a fantastic learning opportunity for an ambitious young designer/graphic design student who is interested in developing their skills and building their portfolio.  The selected candidate will help develop campaigns and visuals to accompany GEM’s web content across a variety of digital platforms.


  • Work in a start-up environment
  • Work with a creative and fun team
  • Attend weekly meetings with senior management
  • Receive training from our Creative Lead and Communications Director
  • Work for an organization that is passionate about helping female youth facing multiple barriers  in Toronto


  • Helping maintain GEM’s branding on official website and social media properties
  • Assist Creative Lead in the development, direction and strategic assessment of visuals accompanying GEM’s web media and marketing material
  • Help manage and direct your own personal weekly workload
  • Provide updates to Creative Lead and the GEM Team to ensure design projects are delivered on time at a level of design excellence.

Desired Skills and Experience:

  • Outstanding sense of design
  • Ability to develop creative concepts that align with GEM’s brand objectives
  • An eye for typography
  • Experience with InDesign and Photoshop
  • Good time management skills and the ability to balance multiple projects at once
  • Ability to work efficiently and creatively with a team
  • Experience with print media and photography skills are an asset
  • Strong interest in social media and branding
  • Must have access to a portable computer (i.e. MacBook)
  • Commitment of 2-3 days per week, plus availability for photo shoots on occasion.

Please send your resume and samples of your work to debora@girlsementorship.com

Run for GEM at the B&O Yorkville Run

GEM is participating for the first time in the Bang & Olufsen Yorkville Run!

What’s the B&O Yorkville Run? Well, it’s a super fun 5K race that unites local runners and businesses to raise funds for local charities. It is well-known for being one the coolest races in Toronto and because it offers THE BEST race kit ever! Plus some super high-quality products to refuel the runners at the finish line. This year, it will take place on September 10, 2017.

We know you believe in the life-changing power of mentorship, and we wanted to ask your help to succeed in this adventure!

There are three ways you can actively help us:

1. REGISTER in the B&O Yorkville Run 2017 in support of GEM. When filling out the online registration form choose Girls E-Mentorship. Once you are registered as a GEM runner, you can start fundraising for GEM by asking people to sponsor you! All the sponsorship funds will go to GEM. Hurry up! There are only 500 spots left! Click here to register.

2. SPONSOR one of our runners! If you’re not much of a runner, you can donate to GEM by sponsoring one of the GEM runners. Check out our running team by clicking here.

3. SPREAD THE WORD! Share this email with your family, friends, and peers and encourage them to run in support of GEM or to sponsor GEM runners. Every single $ makes a huge difference!

About the B&O Yorkville Run
Since its inception in 2010, participants in the B&O Yorkville Run have raised more than $800,000 in support of local charities. The 8th Annual B&O Yorkville Run will take place on Sunday, September 10, 2017, at 9:45 AM. 

The registration fee for the race is $100. During registration, you also have the chance to make a personal donation to GEM.

The race kit includes a New Balance Men’s T-shirt or Women’s Tank, a $100 Gift Card for New Balance apparel, download for professional race photos, personalized bib, timing chip, along with some surprises.

Runners registered to raise money for GEM will have a personal fundraising page. Make sure to share it with your family, friends, and peers to start getting donations for GEM! Once you get your first donation, your name will show up on GEM’s page.

Fundraisers who raise over $500 will receive their choice of luxurious fundraising prizes from Bang & Olufsen, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co. and other Yorkville boutiques.

For more information check out the B&O Yorkville Run website.

The GEM Team

Fatima Waheed: Why become a GEMgirl?

Fatima Waheed was one of our amazing GEMgirls in 2015-16. Her mentor was Natalie Ceccato. We interviewed her about her experience in The GEM Program.

-What did you love about the GEM program?
-My favorite part about the GEM program was being part of the Influencers of Tomorrow Summit. I found the event very engaging and knowledgeable. I enjoyed being surrounded by strong independent women who were trying to help Toronto become more inclusive. Attending the summit affirmed the idea that girls can make a difference and that we can change tomorrow.

-How did GEM impact your life?
-GEM is my greatest achievement. The GEM program equipped me with skills for my future and gave me something to be proud of. Not only did they help me to be more confidence, but also opened many doors for me. I had the opportunity to apply and win one of the GEM scholarships because of the skills I received from the GEMinars. GEM made me believe that change is possible and that we need to help empower all.

-What are you doing now?
-I’m currently a first- year student at the University of Toronto Scarborough. I’m studying Psychology and Health Science. Also, I’m the Finance Director of the school’s Muslim Student Association.

-What would you say to someone who may be interested in joining GEM program?
-It’s a life changing experience where you will develop skills that will benefit your future. GEM will open so many doors for you. You will also make great connections that will always be there for you. GEM is a great support system that will help keep you on task and make sure you are taking the right steps to have a successful future.