Sunday night, I returned from my last She’s the First summit as a campus chapter leader.
The entire trip was bittersweet, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t have the words “last time” stuck in my head the entire time.
(Only the first photo on the left is my own)
You see, before I was introduced to She’s the First… I was floundering around looking for my next passion. Dance had been it for so long, that when it suddenly took a seat into a lower notch on my priority scale for the first time in 15 years…I was lost. So She’s the First found me and opened my eyes to something that I not only cared about, but that I was already an advocate for, I just didn’t know it yet.
But let me back track…and tell you what She’s the First is. She’s the First is a non-profit organization that raises money through various types of creative fundraisers for girls in developing nations. We do this so that they may be the first in their families to graduate high school. In giving them this chance to pursue an education… we are substantially changing their life’s trajectory. Education is the key to better health , delayed marriage and child bearing, and it plays an enormous role in eradicating poverty .
I fell in love with this organization at the first Leadership summit in 2012. And almost 3 years later, it’s changed the trajectory of my own life.
Being a scholarship student myself, if it weren’t for those sources of financial aid, I don’t know where I’d be today. My education has provided me with so many opportunities, but more importantly it has taught me an immense number of things, a majority of which I didn’t find in a book ironically enough, but through the experience itself. And when I think about what it must feel like to be denied this opportunity? I can’t believe it, it makes be both sad, and angry but determined to fight with this organization to change this pattern.
The 2014 Leadership Summit was amazing. Seeing the number of leaders and members in attendance triple since 2012 was extremely inspiring, and it almost felt like a family reunion.
The founder of our chapter at UNC Asheville Becca Wertheim (in the middle picture below this) spoke on a panel :
We met two scholars who graduated from one of our partner schools– Shanti Bhavan in India in 2012
The UNC Asheville chapter of She’s the First one $50 in seed money to go towards our chapter for the year thanks to the amazing creativity on social media of our Co-President Melissa Castillo.
We were able to hear a number of speakers ranging from social entrepreneurs, authors, millennial experts, and individuals involved with the UN and our government.
One of the most memorable moments though was getting to meet the leader of the Arlington Academy of Hope in Uganda. This was particularly meaningful because UNC Asheville chapter of She’s the First sponsored a girl from that school who is in the 5th grade. It felt amazing to shake her hand. It’s the closest we’ve ever been to Justine (picture on the right).
There were a few cool moments like meeting Molly Ford, and officially meeting Erin Leigh Patterson after being twitter peeps for a little bit, and seeing her last year but never really getting to introduce myself. Or hearing people like Stephanie Flo speak and being grateful that I wasn’t the only one that was/is terrified to leave home and move to NYC but wanted/want to very badly.
Again and again these little moments were happening. Getting to see people that are inspiring. Getting to listen to them speak and narrate their journey to where they are today. There are way too many awesome moments to count…and as each of them were going on I couldn’t help but think “last one”… but also, I couldn’t help but think, “this is why we fight”.
You’d think I’d have the reason I fight solidified and tattooed over my heart by now. And I do, in some sense (no tattoos yet). But fighting for a cause that is so large and deals with so many people and requires so many things is far from easy, and so it definitely takes a weekend like this past weekend to remind everyone Why we Fight. Why do we do this in the first place?
We fight for girls like Justine… or Magdalena, and Shova G, and Bipana! Girls that UNC Asheville’s chapter of She’s the First sponsored last year.
We fight for Mahesh & Paddy. Who are now both in College and doing amazing things. Both majoring in something extremely scientific and mathematically challenging, and they’re wonderful beautify young women that are inspiring not only us in the United States but their fellow She’s the First sisters in India.
We fight to inspire and get others to join our fight.
We fight to make a difference.
And despite the fact that this was my last summit as a campus leader, one of the things that has been added to my list of what I love about the organization is, it doesn’t matter if you’re in high school, college, with a full time job, part time job, or studying abroad or even if you’re in the 3rd grade. You can make a difference.
Shoutout to the entire team at She’s the First who made this leadership summit possible.
Shoutout to all the panelists, workshop facilitators and volunteers.
Shoutout to Mahesh & Paddy.
Shoutout the wonderful She’s the First family.I am so excited to see how many mountains we move and how much we grow and grow and grow while changing the world in the process.
p.s —- If you want to learn more about the wonderful things that She’s the First is doing, or you want to get involved, please click through to the link below!
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