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Connection made at inaugural Minerva Learning to Lead™ conference will last a lifetime

Co-founder Nancy McKinstry attended Dr. Kristel Prabhu’s wedding in Bali this spring.

Most people know what a hassle it can be moving from one home to another. Now imagine your old home – the only home you’ve ever known – is on one side of the world, and your new home is on the complete opposite side. Now, imagine being 16 years old at the time of the move. For Kristel Lobo Prabhu, this was her reality.

Kristel—who is now a General Surgeon at Burnaby Hospital—and her family moved from India to Canada in 2001. Her new surroundings stoked a lot of excitement for her and her family; but being thrown midyear into a grade 11 high-school class was an experience and a challenge like none other she had previously faced.

Less than a year later, Kristel was chosen to take part in the first ever Minerva Learning to Lead™ Conference. Little did she know, that conference would have a profound effect on her, helping to realize the powerful leadership potential she had inside her — and make a lifelong connection in the process.

“I felt like these are my people, [that] this will be my home now,” recalled Kristel. “It set me up for knowing that I could be uncompromising in my goals, and there would always be women to support you in whatever field you choose.”

One of those women was Minerva co-founder, Nancy McKinstry, who was immediately, impressed by Kristel’s poise and leadership potential. And that immediate impression would be the genesis of a connection that has lasted nearly 20 years.

“Kristel (…) stood up and spoke—I could get emotional just thinking about it—I have a copy of that speech that I have quoted and read from over the last 20 years,” said Nancy. “It moved me so much, as it still does, so I thought to myself: I’ve got to get to know this young woman.”

And get to know her, she did — what followed was two decades of friendship and connection.

The two crossed paths at Simon Fraser University (SFU) when Nancy was Chair of the Board of Governors and Kristel was an undergraduate student. But the connection didn’t stop there, Nancy travelled all the way to Bali, Indonesia, this past spring to attend Kristel’s wedding – an event that she wouldn’t have missed for the world.

“I created a connection [with Kristel] that I certainly don’t want to break,” said Nancy. “I don’t have kids of my own, so it’s such a joy for me to take pleasure from Kristel’s successes and watching how she’s influencing the world around her – it’s exactly what we set out to do at the beginning of Minerva.”

As Minerva celebrates and reflects on the countless stories of lifelong connections that have been formed over the past 20 years, the occasion is also being taken as an opportunity to project forward – to imagine what is possible for the next 20 years and beyond.

Nancy, who, as a co-founder, has a special relationship with Minerva, says that she’s proud of the organization and how adaptable it has been throughout the years. She also acknowledges that it hasn’t been a “straightforward trajectory” to where Minerva is today.

“We’ve had our bumps along the way [but] we’re in great hands now and I’m so happy that our reputation and supporters and principles —our values—have persisted through all of that.”

Twenty years ago, it was impossible to know that Nancy and Kristel would connect in such a profound way, or that Minerva would have such a profound impact on so many women. But now, another 20 years of connection seems not only possible, it seems like the best is yet to come.

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