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"Her Infinite Impact"

As I write this, Winter Storm Jonas is blanketing us in several inches of snow, and I'm daydreaming about warmer days last weekend when I was visiting She's the First Scholars in Santiago, around beautiful Lake Atitlán in Guatemala.

Photo by me! 

Photo by me! 

The best part about my visit was connecting with our She's the First partner organization, Starfish, on a whole new level. While I've always understood their programs and theory of change, on this trip, I got even more insight into the conversations my extraordinary co-founder Christen Brandt, STF's Director of International Operations, and Starfish's Executive Director, Travis Ning, have all the time about quality education.

What you should know about Starfish.

In Guatemala, the programs impacting our Scholars are directed by Norma Baján (Her bio in 140 characters: born in rural Guatemala to illiterate parents, one of eight siblings to graduate university, has dined with the President in the White House. In one word, she's amazing.). Norma told us all the girls Starfish serves are born with four strikes against them: Poor, Rural, Female, and Indigenous. Their parents have just a few years of schooling, if that, and only speak the indigenous language. Only 1% of Mayan women will ever go to university. 

Norma told us how Starfish's motto, "her infinite impact" or "sin límites," explains their philosophy, and it's our belief at She's the First, too. More important than how many girls you reach is how far each one you do will go. With extremely engaging mentorship programs building the leadership capabilities of these young women, they are well-positioned to make systemic changes in their communities or on a national level, which will enable them to affect exponentially more girls and families. (It's already working. Starfish proudly jokes that the girls in their program dominate the student councils at their respective schools.) 

I think I'm as passionate as I can possibly be about She's the First, but then every time I travel, I come back even more reinvigorated. It occurs in moments like this, when Norma presented three graduated She's the First Scholars to us with their mentors from the Starfish program.

Give me a moment to brag...

Maria Lucia is now in her first year of university, studying teaching and school administration. She did everything she could to try to fund her own higher education, but then came to Starfish when all possibilities were exhausted. She qualified for an additional scholarship and at the same time, she started a small business selling baby clothes to work her way to financial independence. 

Maria Lucia's shop! Photo by Kate Lord, via @shesthefirst Instagram

Maria Lucia's shop! Photo by Kate Lord, via @shesthefirst Instagram

There's Lola, who is co-founding a tourism company called "Mayan Life" and capitalizing on an unmet demand. Donors who come to Panajachel to visit Starfish, for example, want an authentic experience and she can take them to homes to make tortillas with Mayan families, or bring them to the roving Catholic saint/Mayan deity Maximon, which turns out to be a huge tourist attraction that only the locals can find for you. (As someone who took Lola's tour of Santiago, I give her a warm recommendation!) 

Then there's Brenda, who is a receptionist for a female architect, a job she was recommended for by someone who worked for Starfish. Just like in the U.S., to get through the door, you need to know someone. Now these girls not only have a high school diploma, they have contacts. Brenda's the oldest of nine siblings, who are all able to attend school, since she's helping supplement her family's income. She's on a scholarship to continue her education in business administration at the university on weekends.

Back in New York, I happened to read a couple articles that helped me process what this all really means for the future.

One is called "What's Your Endgame?" in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, co-authored by Alice Gugelev, whom Jill Iscol introduced me to in her Hearts on Fire community. It so intelligently synthesized everything I observed from Starfish and am experiencing while working on the growth trajectory of She's the First. 

I loved this article because it defines success for nonprofits based on the metric that truly matters. Scale is not the goal for every nonprofit, especially when funding is so limited. I underlined this: "Nonprofits, in short, should take into account not just the direct impact they hope to achieve, but also the sector-wide change they ultimately aim to create."

In that statement, I saw the magic of Starfish and She's the First combined. Alone, neither of us will get remotely close to reaching all of the 62 million uneducated girls around the world. But together, and with our other partners, we can be a strong force in the sector-wide change we aim to promote: Investing in quality education, so that graduates can be the ones to drive bigger change and have "infinite impact." When you invest in a She's the First Scholar, including one who is a Starfish Girl Pioneer, you may be changing one life, but she's changing so many more because she's learning the skills needed to lead and challenge the status quo.  

Starfish called itself an "open source" organization--which is one of the endgames defined in Alice's article--meaning while their direct services may never go beyond Sololá, Guatemala, they're sharing their knowledge base and helping others replicate their model and programs elsewhere.

She's the First has a mission achievement endgame. We have a well-defined, achievable goal, which is to live in a world where it's difficult to find girls who will be first-generation high school graduates to sponsor. We'll get there by investing in the scholarships of girls with the greatest need and highest potential of disrupting the poverty cycles that have oppressed their families for generations. 

Another example: In Fast Company, I was reading about Toms founder Blake Mycoskie and how he took a step back from scaling the business up, when sales started to plateau, to create the Toms Social Entrepreneurship Fund that will invest in other businesses with social purpose. He had $100 million to start this after selling 50% of his shares of Toms to Bain Capital, which also invested $100 million of its own into his fund. Applying the endgame question, you begin to see how Toms' impact isn't just how many shoes or eye surgeries they've provided through their one-for-one model, but it's the sector-wide change they inspired. Social entrepreneurship and one-for-one models are now far more commonplace in business than when Mycoskie started his company a decade ago. 

"What's your endgame?" I'd love to know in the comments!

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The Powerball

So many people are buzzing about the $1.4B Powerball lottery (although the winner will actually take home much less after taxeseven so, they'll net millions of dollars, and given how excited I was for raising one million at She's the First, that's a big deal).

But every time there's a major jackpot, I can't help but remember how the lottery is one of the main metaphors for the reason She's the First exists. Nicholas Kristof has frequently called poverty versus privilege the "lottery of birth." 

Our society is so transfixed by the fantasy of winning the lotteryand I get that, I grew up watching Yolanda Vega call out the New York lottery numbers in a commercial during Wheel of Fortune, where we watched people go from $0 to $25,000 and a vacation in Hawaii within 30 minutes.

But now, working in the non-profit sector, I have another type of fantasy: What if the hundreds of millions of people buying $2 tickets (440 million were sold in the last drawing) donated instead to She's the First (or any education non-profit, local or global). What if the person who won was given the option of donating all $1.4B to education needs, tax-free?

In the fundraising world, it's too easy to get caught up in, and discouraged by, whimsical what ifs of how people could spend their money differently. I'm not saying you should feel bad for buying a lottery ticket. I too purchase lottery tickets from time to timethe scratch-off ones are fun to put in birthday cards. You're allowed to have a guilty pleasure.

My point is to remind us all that the resources to create education equality do exist in this world. That's why I go to work every day. Because I know a future in which there are no more first-generation high school graduates is possible.

The difference between buying a lottery ticket and donating to an education non-profit is this: The latter, the ticket out of poverty, almost always wins. I have so many examples of this. If you have time, read STF Scholar Maheshwari's story on Medium. Born to uneducated parents in India, she's on her way to becoming a successful geneticist and having multiple degrees to her name.

Maheshwari, and all our Scholars, remind me every day that unlike the Powerball lottery, where we entertain what if fantasies that we don't expect to come true, when we invest in education, we're creating a reality driven by why not? We can expect the best, and the most unlikely things, to happen. Last year, one of our Scholars in Ethiopia, Tizita, even starred in an award-winning film produced by Angelina Jolie (and DVF blogged about her). Why not? With an education, anything is possible.

Should this blog post find its way to the winners of the Powerball, let's talk about philanthropy! But more realistically, since it's found its way to you, there's a good chance you've already donated to She's the First to help more girls win at life even if they lose the birth lottery. For that I thank you so much! And if you're brand new to She's the First, then I'd love to invite you into our world of girl power.

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My 30th Birthday Wish Came True!

All I wanted for my 30th birthday was a million dollars--that is, for She's the First. Our 2015 goal was to raise seven figures for the first time, a 56% increase over last year. And as of December 18th, we did it!

I'm bursting with gratitude and joy for every dollar that you've given to push us past this milestone. You are transforming upwards of 600 Scholars' lives, thousands of their family and community members, and nearly 200 campus chapters with more than 3,000 engaged student leaders. It's astounding!

Even though this December 19th is the big 3-0 for me, it's funny how life always finds a way to take me back to the age that really changes everything: 17. For me, 17 was the year I graduated from high school and was voted "Most Shy," a title that catalyzed the personal growth that put me on the path to She's the First. I then went on to work for Seventeen the magazine. 17 is the age in which girls should be so close to high school graduation--yet for far too many around the world, we've already lost them to poverty, forced marriage, and unexpected pregnancy at this point.

On December 17th, I knew we were so close, only $25,000 away, from the million. That morning, I happened to receive an email as I was riding the crosstown bus to meet a friend for coffee. It was sent through this very website from Anastasia, a 17-year-old high school senior from New Hampshire. She wrote:

For one of my classes, we were able to choose a charitable organization to pretend to donate one million dollars to. I chose to donate my money to She's the First. I admire your mission and philosophy, and also see the immense value in girls' education. While I calculated the number of girls one million dollars would send to school, I don't know if that is how you would use it. So, I was wondering, how would you use one million dollars for She's the First? I would really appreciate your help with my project. Thank you!

I was stunned! Anastasia had no idea I was actively trying to reach a million dollar fundraising goal for the first time. I guess I was really putting some strong vibes out in the universe! I took this as a good omen, and I wrote Anastasia back to schedule time to speak with her Friday, December 18th at 3:30pm.

On Friday, during lunchtime, we received enough donations online to push us over the one million dollar mark! When Anastasia called me just a couple hours later, I learned she had heard me speak at a Her Campus conference this past February. She's taking a class in high school that prepares seniors for "life after graduation." Knowing how many adults do their charitable giving in December, her teacher assigned the class to vet a nonprofit to receive a fictional million bucks. Remembering my speech and after doing her research on our website, Anastasia chose us!

I then told Anastasia something she didn't know: That I could tell her what a million dollars would do for She's the First, because as of two hours ago, we had raised it. When she reached out to me, she wasn't sure she'd actually get a reply, but she figured it was worth a try. Little did she know, she sent an email that would mark one of the happiest celebrations of my life.

Thank you, Anastasia, for giving us a million dollars if you had it. Even if it's pretend money, that means the world to me. Thank you to each and every person, company, and foundation who made the real million happen with your hard-earned dollars. I've been floored to see friends who've known me since I was 10, up to people I only met last week, donate to our efforts.

If you'd still like to be part of our million dollar year, you can! We are running our campaign to sponsor the first 10 She's the First Scholars in Sierra Leone and I've chosen to dedicate my 30th to it.

Here's to the 30s!!!!

Future STF Scholars in Sierra Leone, jumping outside their classroom. Photo by Kate Lord

Future STF Scholars in Sierra Leone, jumping outside their classroom. Photo by Kate Lord

Celebrating with a cupcake and a co-founder (hi Christen Brandt!) in the Birchbox office! 

Celebrating with a cupcake and a co-founder (hi Christen Brandt!) in the Birchbox office! 

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Dedicating My 30th Birthday

My 3rd Birthday, 1988

My 3rd Birthday, 1988

On December 19th, I'll be 30 years old! I'm eager and optimistic for this new decade.  

My awkward teenage years were full of studying and minimal self-esteem because I was so shy...but always surrounded by love (because my mom and dad are wonderful). Then, in my 20s, amazing things started to happen. Looking back, I see how none of it would have been possible without graduating from high school, which is what She's the First helps girls around the world to do.

I'll remember my 20s most of all for these 7 reasons:

1) At 21, I was the first in my family to graduate from college (go TCNJ!).

2) At 23, I founded She's the First as a YouTube video, and little did I know it would explode into a non-profit that now supports 568 Scholars in 11 countries with 1600 scholarships, and 177 campus chapters at U.S. high schools and colleges. In our first few years, we raised over a million and a half dollars, caught the attention of Diane von Furstenberg, Chelsea Clinton, the TODAY Show, etc...and now we are so close to raising $1 MILLION in 2015 alone! I can't imagine my life without STF, my work wifey Christen, Katie, Perrie, and all the people behind our mission for universal quality secondary education.

3) I accomplished my dream of working in the magazine industry and spent 5 fantastic years at Hearst Digital Media and Seventeen. I became the first social media editor of Seventeen and got to connect with millions of teen girls across America, who I just wanted to make feel more confident than I was at their age.

4) I moved to NYC and got to be neighbors with Central Park and have the best roommates (and more recently that includes Poptart, the cuter than cute dog -- see my Instagram!).

5) I traveled all over the world--Liberia, Guatemala, Tanzania, and Nepal were the most memorable places--and to the mid-west and West Coast of the U.S. for the first time.

6) I discovered my passion for fitness, running my first marathon and becoming a certified Spinning instructor, despite being the worst kid in gym class at school.

7) I fell in love, had my heart broken, went on countless disappointing dates, but ultimately fell in love again when I was least expecting it with the most outstanding partner.  

So, what brings me here today is this: There's no other way I want to celebrate these 10 amazing years of my 20s than backing She's the First's campaign to sponsor the first 10 Scholars in Sierra Leone.  

Would you join me by contributing $10 or more? Our goal is to raise $10,000 for their scholarships this month. Please go here to support.

Education is the best gift any of us could ever ask for.

Our soon-to-be STF Scholars in Sierra Leone, jumping for joy. Photo by Kate Lord

Our soon-to-be STF Scholars in Sierra Leone, jumping for joy. Photo by Kate Lord

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What I Learned Clowning Around

Ready to make my Macy's Parade debut! 

Ready to make my Macy's Parade debut! 

On Thanksgiving Day, I lived a lifelong dream of being in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, when I played the part of a Bumble Bee in the Springtime Clowns group, which marched ahead of the Wiggly Worm balloon. You can thank us for the lovely spring-like weather on November 26th in NYC. ;)

At 5am, when we arrived at the New Yorker Hotel, where we'd change into costume, I went downstairs to the restroom. There was a woman, about mid-50s, drying her eyes with a paper towel. She was crying, tears of joy. She mentioned it was her lifelong dream to be in the parade. And you may remember Grandma Boop's reaction to getting into the parade last year after 30 years of trying--it went viral. So I'm not the only one! 

In my line of work, I'm exposed to the tremendous lack of basic opportunity and human rights in the world, namely education. It's often jarring for me to switch from my serious dreams--to be part of the generation that ends education inequality--to the seemingly silly ones, like being in a parade or finishing a marathon. I am incredibly fortunate to have a network that supports my dreams on both ends of the spectrum. 

The truth is, the "silly" dreams motivate me. They teach me that persistence pays off. I can tackle them as I work up to the serious dreams, and in doing so, I pick up insights and skills that truly matter.

The Macy's Parade was more surreal than I ever imagined for a couple reasons. First, even though I've run in the closed-down streets of New York City during the marathon, then I was sharing the asphalt with thousands of runners. During the parade, you've got a HUGE amount of empty road to dance around, space you're only sharing with about six or seven people. And you're not dressed as you. In the marathon, people shouted my name, which was written on my shirt, whereas in the parade, they chanted "Bumble Bee! Bumble Bee!" and shouted, "Hi Bee!" I got to be a character, a piece of the magic that is the 89-year-old Macy's Thanksgiving Day tradition. 

Clowns are the only part of the parade that get to run to the sidelines and literally touch the spectators. I gave hundreds of kids high-fives. I tossed thousands of pieces of confetti on their heads. I walked away thinking: As people, we just want to be seen, don't we? More than we may even realize it. To have others acknowledge our bee-ing. (I couldn't resist.) 

I shouted "Happy Thanksgiving" to the crowds a zillion times, and when I looked someone in the eye and smiled, they smiled too. It was contagious. We looked up at the buildings, where people were watching from windows. We pointed at them and waved. They lit up. People don't do that on a regular day in New York City--look each other in the eye and smile. We are too busy avoiding eye contact. But on this one unseasonably warm morning, as Macy's put on its annual parade as safely as ever despite security threats around the world, I'd like to think most people understood how lucky we all were to just be.

Thank you again, Macy's and Madeleine Magardician, for letting me bee in your parade! 

Every participant gets a pin at the end! 

Every participant gets a pin at the end! 

On Clown Corner on Central Park West, with my sister Shelley (a flower pot)

On Clown Corner on Central Park West, with my sister Shelley (a flower pot)


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Happy Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, I'm fulfilling a lifelong dream to be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! In addition to my more serious life goals to move to New York City, make it in the magazine industry, and send as many girls as I can to school, I've always wanted to experience the magic of the Thanksgiving Day Parade that I've watched on TV every single year. So, over the course of a decade, I manifested it.

About 10 years ago, I learned that you had to be nominated by a Macy's employee to volunteer in the parade. So I kept talking about this bucket-list dream, and last year I eventually found someone who knew someone, and this someone actually assistant produced the parade. Madeleine Magardician is magical.

Once I was accepted as a Macy's Parade Volunteer thanks to Madeleine, I got to choose from three roles: Float Escort, Balloon Handler, or Clown. I always envisioned myself as a Float Escort, but then, just before I hit "send" with my selection, I remembered Grammie.

"Grammie" is what we called my dad's mom. In her retirement, she became a clown. No, she didn't join the circus, but she was properly trained on how to be a clown, whom she named "Ellie Bell" (her name was Eleanor) so she could visit hospitals and cheer up kids.

Grammie in her clown costume

Grammie in her clown costume

If Grammie knew I had the chance to be a world-famous clown and didn't take it...I knew what I had to do to honor her spirit and laughter. 

When I chose to be a clown, I did it in Grammie's memory, not realizing what else makes the clowns so special. They are the only part of the Thanksgiving Day parade that gets to touch the hearts and hands of the 3.5 million bystanders. No one else, not the marching bands, nor the balloon handlers, nor the float escorts, gets to run to the sidelines to high five a kid or throw confetti on people.

To prepare us for our role, Macy's held "Clown U" at the Big Apple Tent last weekend, which I attended with my sister Shelley. Real Big Apple Circus Clowns taught us how to master the art of being silly and making people smile. We'll be part of the Springtime Clowns group, which opens the parade! 

We graduated from Clown U! That's my sister Shelley, Noel (Queen Bee of the Springtime Clowns, who works for Macy's), and Moo Chacha, our Big Apple Circus Clown coach.

We graduated from Clown U! That's my sister Shelley, Noel (Queen Bee of the Springtime Clowns, who works for Macy's), and Moo Chacha, our Big Apple Circus Clown coach.

I'll head home to New Jersey after the parade, full of gratitude to be surrounded by people I love; fortunate to do what I love in the city I love--and reminded that all of that stems from the gift of a quality high school and college education I was given.

The lesson I'm taking away from this: Talk about your dreams, OUT LOUD, from the serious ones to the seemingly silly ones. It's the only way to turn them into a reality.

In 1994, Grammie was a clown at my sister Shelley's 7th birthday party. I'm the big sister standing up in pink.

In 1994, Grammie was a clown at my sister Shelley's 7th birthday party. I'm the big sister standing up in pink.

My Halloween costume circa 1988 could have also predicted my destiny.

My Halloween costume circa 1988 could have also predicted my destiny.



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Welcome!

Welcome to my new online home. (I built it myself!)

I wanted to recommit to my goal to write more about the incredible insights, learnings, and questions coming out of She's the First and the non-profit entrepreneurship sector, from my point of view. I've transferred over some of my favorite entries from my old site, but I'm mostly starting fresh as I gear up for 2016 (and a new decade - my 30s!).

I'm reading Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin now, and the new good habit I want to work on is reflection. We are always working at warp speed and my personal writing seems to fall to the bottom of the to-do list when there's a pressing deadline or a pipeline of donors to follow up with. Social media, in its immediacy and bite-sized sharing, creates good habits of staying informed and visible, but bad habits of not taking time to process, create conscious improvement, or even plan long term.

Besides that personal benefit, I'm also hoping that this blog and my newsletter might work as a means of "scaling up" my mentorship abilities. As She's the First grows, I'm unable to take as many individual coffee dates with entrepreneurs and students as I used to, and giving advice is still something I love to do. I'm hoping that I can still manage to help you in this way.

My plan is to blog 2-3 times a month, and then at the end of it, deliver a newsletter to my subscribers, summing up what the theme of the month was for me.

Would you like to be part of this habit-forming mentorship experience with me? Then please subscribe! And please let me know in the comments below if I can reciprocate and be part of your list serv.

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Teaming Up with Shakira

Big news! I’m headed to Barcelona this week to join Shakira for a special event on May 9th that celebrates the multi-dimensional woman who wants to look, feel, and do good.

3D White is a beauty brand that wants to do more than sell great toothpaste — they want to empower women. That’s why they invited me to lead a workshop about She’s the First for 50+ delegates at the event, and they’re making a generous donation to support our mission.

In addition to being a Grammy-award-winning, world-famous musician and one of Forbes‘ Most Powerful Women, Shakira is the global brand ambassador for 3D White and a passionate philanthropist. She founded Pies Descaldos (the Barefoot Foundation) to help poor and impoverished children in Colombia, her native country.

I’m beyond excited to share the smiles of She’s the First Scholars with Shakira and the contest winners who are attending her event with 3D White. You can follow the excitement with the hash tag #3DWhiteShakira. I’ll post updates to my Twitter and Instagram.

Photos by Kate Lord

Photos by Kate Lord

Thank you, Shakira and Oral-B/3D White for this opportunity to take She’s the First to Spain! Thank you to Marie Claire for including me in the “20 Women Changing the World” issue last September, which is how Shakira’s team found us. And I should probably thank my dentist too. :)

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Nepal in a Nutshell

I wrote an entire post about how much my trip to Nepal to visit our 91 She’s the First Scholars meant to me. And then it disappeared. I hit publish, the page redirected to an error message, and I lost everything. All the awe, gratitude, joy that I had packaged in such a neat list to share with you… gone.

I was just about pulling my hair out… and then I stopped myself. It was only a blog post. I remembered what the She’s the First Scholars teach me: Patience and perseverance.

Rather than rewrite the post as it was, I’m going to write something else entirely, hopefully even better.

So here we go, the highlights of my third visit to a She’s the First partner school and my first-ever trip to Asia, to see Blink Now Foundation‘s Kopila Valley School.

The best takeaways come down to 3 Cs:

1. Collateral: I get to see my co-founder Christen Brandt and our Junior Board Chair Kate Lord work storytelling magic with our Scholars. This duo has churned out two short films about STF Scholars, Magho and Focused, and two more are on the way this year. Other organizations have spent six figures to millions of dollars on documentary work, so it mesmerizes me to watch C+K create equally powerful and effective content as a team of two on a shoestring budget. Follow @shesthefirst so you don’t miss any of it.

Kate and Christen at work filming Scholars

Kate and Christen at work filming Scholars

2. Collaboration: We detest the word charity around here, because She’s the First is a model of collaboration — our Scholars are receiving the money needed to attend school, but they are giving back so much more to our mission. The “Race to Equality” 5K organized by a team of STF Scholars while we were in Nepal is the perfect example of this. It was the first-ever race through the small town of Surkhet, in the valleys of the Himalayan mountains, involving 200+ boys and girls, men and women. Every participant had a sign on their back dedicating their run to a person or reason. There were even cheer squads along the route! (How cute are they?!)

Scholars raise awareness on the back of every 5K participant

Scholars raise awareness on the back of every 5K participant

3. Color: Our trip happened to line up with Holi, which is the Hindu festival of love, color, and spring. 50 children and adults pelted us with colored power down by the river (imagine a Color Run on steroids). We’re helping girls be the first in their families to graduate, but this week, they gave us an unforgettable first of our own: Celebrating Holi. I’m so grateful to the Kopila Valley family, led by fearless founder Maggie Doyne, her co-founder Taupe, and the superhuman fellows: Nena, Anjali, Patty, Luke, Jamie, and Chris.

Can you recognize us? That’s Brooke Oliver, me, Christen Brandt, and Erin Leigh Patterson

Can you recognize us? That’s Brooke Oliver, me, Christen Brandt, and Erin Leigh Patterson

It wouldn’t be completely fair of me to just share the happy photos and not reflect on the challenges that come with them.

The hardest part of STF trips is trying to reconcile your own human capacity with the tremendous need and injustice you see all around you. After I meet our Scholars and explore their communities, I want to knock down more doors, make bigger and bolder asks. My daily life in the office is very much about firing away emails and making phone calls to bring in our major funding, and when you’re in a place like Nepal, you have to take a break from that. I went the entire day without Wi-Fi and email. I had to keep reminding myself to be in the moment and disconnect so that when I came home, I could activate more.

You think you have all the drive in the world, and then these STF Scholars have an uncanny ability to get inside your heart and find these power switches you didn’t know were in you. So that’s where I am now — feeling incredibly thankful for all the supporters who have sponsored these 91 girls and made us one of the top funders ever to the Kopila Valley School. But that’s not enough. It’s time to do more because these girls are on fire, ready to reinvest.

Our goal this year is to sponsor 600 girls across the She’s the First partner schools.

You can make a donation at shesthefirst.org/donate and turn more girls in Surkhet into She’s the First Scholars. Or maybe you can connect me to corporate and foundation sponsors for our two milestone events this year, the Campus Leadership Summit and the Mentor Breakfast. You don’t need a plane ticket to make a difference in these girls’ lives. You can do it from where you are in this very moment.

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The Benefits of "Sweatworking"

“Sweatworking” with She’s the First volunteers, Stephanie Florence of Edelman (wearing her SIX:02 pants!) and Evann Clingan of 360i & EvannClingan.com

“Sweatworking” with She’s the First volunteers, Stephanie Florence of Edelman (wearing her SIX:02 pants!) and Evann Clingan of 360i & EvannClingan.com

A reporter’s query crossed my inbox today, asking about the benefits of “sweatworking” — in other words, doing your networking and relationship-building with colleagues and/or clients through fitness. I had never heard this term before, so first of all, I was incredibly excited to now have a way to describe something I suggest doing all the time.

Why is sweatworking awesome?

  • It’s good for you! Exercise = endorphins = happiness. Basic brain science.
  • People are vulnerable when they work out, especially if it’s their first time taking a particular class. You learn the ropes together, and the shared victory at the end is way more memorable than paying your bar tab when you get drinks.
  • When you’re working out, you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to wear that will make you look as put-together and dignified as your job title. You’re both equally unglamorous and, most importantly, authentic and energized–and that’s where the best partnership and friendship forms.
  • It’s multi-tasking. If this isn't someone you can prioritize in your personal time over close friends or family, slot them into your work-out time. 
  • This does not apply to me, but if you work for a PR firm, in ad sales, or for any company with entertainment budgets, you can expense it.

How do I love to sweatwork?

  • Yoga: Every Sunday at Lululemon, there are free yoga classes. I invite a friend (who is usually invested in She’s the First in a big way, personally or professionally) and afterwards, we grab a coffee and croissant or Bruffin.
  • Cardio Dancing: My friend Sadie Kurzban is the fierce founder of (305) Fitness in the West Village. She’s the First is her cause of choice. Sadie not only organizes donation-based classes for STF whenever she’s introducing a new instructor to her community, but she donates class passes to me so that I can treat my VIPs. I invite people whom I think will become (305) Fitness die-hards and evangelists, so it’s a win-win.
  • Running: When the weather is warmer, nothing beats a run around Central Park. Do it on a Saturday, Instagram a photo and tag it #WillRunforJuice, and you’ll even get a free smoothie at Juice Press locations, between 9am-noon.

How do I propose you sweatwork?

Organize a donation-based Zumba, yoga, or exercise class at your company and invite colleagues. This would make an incredible fundraiser for our #SweatforSTF campaign! Or, invite your clients and partners. Hold the class at a professional studio, like Soul Cycle or Uplift, or bring an instructor into your office. For example, maybe you’re a PR company trying to launch a new beauty product. Say you’ll donate $25 for every magazine editor who comes. That’s far more exciting than all the other PR events they’re invited to that week.

So, who wants to sweatwork with me?

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BEST DAY EVER!

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“It always seems impossible until it’s done” was the Nelson Mandela quote I printed on the back of my NYC Marathon shirt. Before crossing the finish line at 3:49pm this past Sunday, 5 hours and 18 minutes after starting, “done” felt a long way off. But here we are — this fundraising page and the 2014 NYC Marathon are officially DONE!

Now, our connection to our She’s the First Scholars begins, and that is the best part.

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit our scholars and partner organization Starfish One by One in Guatemala, and then I returned to NYC just 48 hours before the marathon. I feared all that could go wrong — getting sick, twisting my ankle on a cobble stone, bad weather — but I knew no matter what, we had raised more than $10,000 to support 10 girls in school. That was comforting. Our grand total is in fact almost $13,000 now!

Marathon Sunday was, as cheesy as it sounds, magical. Seeing my friends and family cheering at miles 8, 18, and 23 in their STF tshirts was electrifying and unforgettable! Though she was still in Guatemala, my co-founder and Director of International Operations, Christen Brandt, surprised me by commissioning posters that pictured the girls we all sponsored together. (Last week, I got to meet Petronila in Guatemala – pictured on the poster I am touching below – and thinking of her carried me through many parts of the race.)

Mile 18 of the NYC Marathon (Photo by Kate Lord

Mile 18 of the NYC Marathon (Photo by Kate Lord

Meet my mom Cheryl, dad Scott, and sister Shelley (Photo by Kate Lord

Meet my mom Cheryl, dad Scott, and sister Shelley (Photo by Kate Lord

Any of you who are runners know that even when you train properly and work hard, you don’t always get a good race, so I feel incredibly lucky that all the stars aligned. Believe it or not, even when I crossed the finish line, the song blasting from the big Central Park speakers was exactly the same one I used as my “power song” all throughout training season on my Nike app. (That’s the song that plays every time you finish your goal distance. Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” if you must know.) I just lost it. Don’t let these smiley photos deceive you. I was bawling at the finish, though fortunately with uncontrollable happiness and not excruciating pain.

This year, I so badly wanted to add the next chapter to our She’s the First “Run the World” fundraising campaign and teach myself that I, the kid who couldn’t run a mile in gym class, could do something that was once “impossible” to me. It was good fate from the start that I got in via lottery on the first try, which any New Yorker will tell you is virtually unheard of. Last year, Erin Leigh Patterson ran the first NYC Marathon for She’s the First, and next year, I hope more women (and how about a man!) will also run the world’s largest marathon to send more girls to school. If you do, I promise to be an outrageous cheerleader.

I will forever be in awe of this group of names that you are a part of below. I met each of you through such different avenues of my life and a few of you, I actually never met in person. My heart is tingling to see you all here together for the same purpose.

THANK YOU Adam, Adrianna, Ale, Alison, Ally, Amanda C., Amanda K., Ami, Amy S., Andrea, Angel, Becky, Belma, Brianne, Brittany, Brooke, Callie, Carrie H., Carrie M., Cassandra, Catherine, Chanelle, Chelsea, Cheryl, Christen, Christian, Craig, Crystal, Dan, Daniela, David, Denise, Donna, Emily B., Emily D., Emma, Erin, Gemma, George, Gina, Glenda, Grandma, Holly, Irene, Jamie, Jan, Jane, Jayne, Jenn, Jenna, Joan, Judy, Julie K., Julie P., Kate, Katie, Keds & Seventeen, Kelli, Kim, Kristen, Kristen & Greg, Lauren Horn, Lauren Hurwitz, Lianna, Linda, Liriel, Lisa, Long, Maggie, Marc, Marci & Marty, Marcia, Mariam, Mariko, Matthew, Michael, Michelle, Mike, Mom & Dad, Nadia, Nicole, Nina, Lady Project, Opal, Partha, Rachel Simmons, Rachel Sklar, Rachel & Lorne, Rethink Gainesville, Rob, Rose, Roseanne, Ruth Ann, Samantha, Sammy, Shelley, Sierra, Simtec, Stephanie F., Stephanie S, Therese & Casey & Gianna, United Way, Uyen, and Yamile.

And to Elly in Tanzania, a graduated She’s the First Scholar – You wished me all the lucky in the world, right here on my fundraising page, and I got it. Nakupenda, dada!

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