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!!!!