by Edward Jones, IMDiversity Featured Employer

This Edition: “Mentoring Program Helps Young Women Believe The Sky Is The Limit”

Ever wish you could be a kid again? That you could go back to a time when you did not have a 9 to 5, bills and other obligations? While childhood should be joyous and free from responsibilities other than perhaps homework and household chores, it is not necessarily easier. Young people today are confronted by a number of problems such as drugs, the threat of school violence and peer pressure about things they are far too young to do. For girls, teen pregnancy, abuse or neglect compound these issues and are contributing factors to dropout.

One program is helping girls to steer clear of these daunting realities and to recognize their full potential. During the past ten years, the Sky Is The Limit program has brought together 2,250 junior high and high school girls with highly successful women through an annual luncheon and Women in Careers Workshop. The program is one of many youth outreach efforts of the nationally recognized and respected Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. Founded in 1960 by Martin L. Mathews and the late Hubert “Dickey” Ballentine, the Club serves more than 40,000 young men and women in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Let’s Do Lunch

At The Sky Is The Limit luncheon, funded by various individuals and corporations including Edward Jones, 250 young women receive words of inspiration from women who are well-respected leaders in their fields. Additionally, college scholarships are awarded to participants from 14 St. Louis-area school districts. Scholarship recipients are selected not only for academic achievement, but their commitment to positive activities outside of school such as community service. While the guest speakers and scholarships are integral parts of the luncheon, building mutually rewarding mentoring relationships is the primary goal.

“We want the girls to make an impression on the mentors,” said Barbara Washington, vice president public relations and special events, Mathew-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. “These mentors have accomplished their goals, so it’s up to the young women to want to do the same. Someone can lay a path for you, but you have to be willing to take the first step.”

The young women frequently ask their mentors about their careers and for advice and, in the process, develop what will hopefully become long-term mentoring relationships.

“It’s a mutual relationship. Both the young women and their mentors have to be willing to stay in contact,” said Washington.

Some mentoring relationships initially formed at The Sky Is The Limit luncheon have lasted for years. Barbara Washington told of one participant who was arrested for carrying a knife to school when she was in the 7th grade.

“She was afraid of the boys who harassed her on the way to school,” Washington said.

Instead of dismissing the young woman as another product of tough circumstances, the wife of the arresting officer referred her to the Mathews-Dickey Boys & Girls Club. Washington made herself available to the young woman who revealed that she wanted to become a lawyer. The Sky Is The Limit program paired her with a young attorney who has kept in touch and served as a role model for five years. A judge also stepped in and maintained regular contact with her. The young woman is now a recipient of a Sky Is The Limit scholarship and will enter university this fall.

There are other successes such as Kristee Ruffin, an aspiring journalist who received a scholarship from the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis, Shaniece Polk, a future pediatrician who received an Anheuser-Busch scholarship, or Megan Temple, who is planning a career in sports medicine, received the Edward Jones Scholarship.

The accomplishments of these and other young women have prompted Barbara Washington to want to broaden the program’s reach.

“My goal is to get it started in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.,” she said.

A Committed Supporter

Edward Jones has been a committed supporter of the Sky Is The Limit program. The firm has sponsored and hosted Women In Careers Workshops at its St. Louis world headquarters and helped fund The Sky Is The Limit luncheon guest speakers such as Chief Annetta Nunn, the first African American police chief of Birmingham, Ala.

At the workshops, Edward Jones Investment Representatives Angela Banks and Cathey Williamson have discussed how to develop good money habits. Other workshop topics have ranged from encouraging girls to recognize the importance of maintaining a good, professional image to offering insight into specific careers such as communications, engineering, technology and health care.

Edward Jones also recruited several of its associates to become mentors and volunteers at both the annual luncheon and workshop.

“The enthusiasm was amazing. It comes from management down,” Washington said of the Edward Jones volunteers and of Inclusion Manager, Michele Holton.

“Becoming a good corporate citizen takes more than simply funding a community project. It takes the personal involvement of our associates,” said Holton.

With more than 8,800 branch offices nationwide, Edward Jones is in your neighborhood and online at


View articles from previous editions in the complete Edward Jones Diversity Series Archives

Featured Employer Edward Jones is a Key Sponsor of is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.