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Mentorship program empowers women

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cunningham, 30th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, speaks during the Mentorship Connection, Nov. 19, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Mentor Connection is a group created to start a focused conversation on how to approach unique challenges as women in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cunningham, 30th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor, speaks during the Mentorship Connection, Nov. 19, 2014, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Mentor Connection is a group created to start a focused conversation on how to approach unique challenges as women in the military. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos/Released)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With 18 percent of active duty members stationed at Vandenberg being women, it is essential to create a way to empower female mentors.

Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Cunningham, 30th Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School instructor and Mentor Connection founder, developed the Mentorship Connection to provide women of Vandenberg a network of female mentors.

"I hope to provide an opportunity for women to connect, empower and inspire," said Cunningham.

Originally an aerospace ground equipment maintainer, Cunningham was the highest ranking within the unit with few female mentors. Upon becoming an ALS instructor, she soon realized the need for an opportunity for people to gather, specifically females, and share experiences and challenges throughout their careers.

"When you're considered a minority and numbers being roughly at 20 percent in the Air Force, it gives us an opportunity to get together and share feelings, thoughts and education," said Chief Master Sgt. Kelli Widner, 30th Force Support Squadron superintendent. "In the end, we can walk home a little more confident."

By creating a network of women, the program aims to create a way to provide tools for new airmen and mentors alike.
"I hope to get more Airmen in our next meeting with a wider demographic," said Cunningham.  "We can all pull from experience up and down the chain of command."

Although only in its early stages, the program continues to grow as Airmen across the installation hear word of its success.

"From numbers increasing from 13 attendees to a 29 attendees in two meetings, I'm certain that once Cunningham departs, a lot of very confident women would want to keep this going," boasted Widner.

For more information on the Mentorship Connection, contact Tech. Sgt. Cunningham at 605-9578.