Profiles with Anu Menon
The holidays are right around the corner and we're doing more than coming out with our limited edition Peppermint Cacao Chip cookie... We will be donating 5% of those sales to Oasis for Girls, an SF-based non-profit that we have had the pleasure to be working with these past few months. Anu Menon is the executive director of Oasis for Girls and we got to get to know her a little bit more and why she does what she does.
CE: What is Oasis for Girls?
Anu: Oasis was founded in 1999 to address the unique needs of low-income young women of color in San Francisco, where resources for vulnerable girls are dwindling. Our mission is to partner with young women of color ages 14-18 from under-resourced communities in San Francisco to help them cultivate the skills, knowledge, and confidence to discover their dreams and build strong futures.
We achieve our mission through our Springboard Series, consisting of the RISE Life Skills Education, CREATE Arts Education, and ENVISION Career Exploration programs. Together, our programs empower girls to develop confidence, self-advocacy, and self-care tools for healthy growth; understand social justice issues and advocate for change in their communities, and pave paths to achieve successful academic and career goals.
CE: What is your educational background? Did you always know you wanted to be apart of a non-profit?
Anu: I have a BA in Anthropology from Stanford University, an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins, and a JD from UC Berkeley. Ever since I can remember, I have been committed to social justice so I have always wanted a career in the non-profit or government sector. I originally had planned to work on international human rights abroad but ended up settling in San Francisco so I have had a vibrant domestic social justice career.
CE: What made you decide to join Oasis for Girls full-time?
Anu: I love the program, values, and staff of the organization. It’s rare to find a culturally sensitive safe space for girls where there are strong adult mentors supporting them every step of the way. That’s youth development best practice but Oasis is one of the few organizations that I’ve seen that really lives and breathes this on a daily basis. The staff, board, and supporters are amazing, dedicated and inspirational so I was excited to come on full-time.
CE: Who is your mentor/ who do you look up to?
Anu: My mom is an amazing role model. She immigrated to the US from India in her early 20s. She’s now in her 70s and had a robust career as a scientist and hospital administrator. She’s dynamic and has an amazing work ethic.
CE: It can be difficult for women to find mentors in their aspiring fields. What advice do you have for young women to find someone to help them on their respective paths?
Anu: Be bold and prepared. When you meet someone who’s advice you’d like or whom you’d like to cultivate as a potential mentor, make sure you respect their time. Set up a time to talk with them and come prepared with clear questions you’d like to ask them. Be open and curious to new ideas and then always follow up with a thank you.
CE: The main demographic for Oasis for Girls is 14 to 18-year-old young women. What were you like at that age?
Anu: I struggled academically and socially in middle school but started 10th grade at a new high school, which changed everything. I was pretty active in my school and community, taking tough courses, working at a movie theater and trying to make the most of my high school experience. I was also a dancer and dedicated a lot of time to that. I was kind of in-between the popular crowd and the socially strong but not super popular crowd, which looking back was a good place to be.
CE: What is the most satisfying part of your job? What makes your heart happy when you are working with Oasis for Girls?
I love working with the staff and supporters to make the program even better for girls. I’m grateful to have the flexibility to be able to try out new and interesting ideas and projects and see where they take us. I love seeing the girls come in early to hang out with each other with the program coordinators even after just a couple of days in the program. It warms my heart that we can create such a strong and safe community right off the bat.
CE: Is there anything that really challenges you in this position? How have you grown since you first started?
Anu: Being an Executive Director means managing a lot of moving parts! The staff is awesome and are the experts in their work but I need to be in the know about all sorts of things —finances, program, fundraising, operations, volunteer and board relations. So trying to organize my time and also learning when to say “no” to certain opportunities has been a bit challenging.
" I like Michelle Obama’s idea of “becoming” —we’re always changing and becoming so enjoy the ride!"
CE: What advice would you give to anyone reading this article trying to find their passion?
Anu: I think there’s a pressure to find one’s passion and a feeling of insecurity that one hasn’t done so or doesn’t know what that is. So my advice is to stop searching for a passion. Just do things you enjoy and challenge yourself without being tied to the outcome. I’ve had a career that’s not linear and looking back I’m glad that I tried all the different things I did because those experiences have created a foundation and knowledge base that I tap into as I move forward and give me perspective. I like Michelle Obama’s idea of “becoming” —we’re always changing and becoming so enjoy the ride!
CE: How can others support Oasis for Girls?
Anu: Please donate! We run an amazing program on a very lean budget so every dollar counts and we make great use of it. We’re also looking for skilled volunteers so please email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
CE: What is your favorite CompletEats flavor?
Anu: Peppermint Cacao of course since it exudes holiday spirit and supports Oasis! I also want to try Banana Bread since it’s always sold out.