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Charity work empowers girls abroad

Jillian Barwick | Thursday, August 23, 2012

Saint Mary’s junior Mileva Brunson hoped to bring global education from the halls of the College to women in need around the world. As president of the Saint Mary’s College chapter of She’s the First, Brunson is now able to do just that.

She’s The First is a non-profit organization that sponsors girls’ education in the developing world through social media and student leadership so they can be the first in their families to graduate from secondary school, Brunson said.

“I found out about She’s the First through my women’s studies course last year,” Brunson said. “For my final paper I researched girls’ education in developing countries which is how I learned about She’s The First.”

After conducting research, Brunson said she wanted to get Saint Mary’s involved with the organization.

“Notre Dame already had a chapter so I knew it was possible for Saint Mary’s to create a chapter with She’s the First where students would be very interested,” she said. “While I was abroad in Rome last spring, I began the process of creating a chapter on campus.”

Speaking with the Student Involvement Office at Saint Mary’s led Brunson back to her women’s studies professor, she said.

Brunson said her professor helped her to find an advising faculty member for the club while Brunson worked on getting together a small team comprised of herself as the president with a vice president and secretary to assist her while she was abroad.

“I had sent out a school-wide email through the Student Government Office on campus and received such a great response from the students here,” Brunson said.

Every semester, the Saint Mary’s chapter of She’s the First will hold an event to raise funds for the girls they sponsor, Brunson said.

“Our first fundraiser will be a cupcake bake-off, much like the one that Notre Dame’s chapter holds, in October,” she said. “Lindsay Brown, the president of the chapter at Notre Dame, began the cupcake bake-off which has become a national campaign for She’s the First.”

Brunson said she and Brown have been in contact with hopes to combine efforts with She’s the First to create larger events between the two campuses.

Tammy Tibbetts, founder and president of She’s the First, said she was impressed by the work Brown and Brunson have done on their campuses.

“I’m so proud of the global impact students in Indiana are making through She’s the First. Both Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, led by Mileva Brunson and Lindsay Brown, respectively, are using social media (and creative fundraising ideas, like cupcakes) to collectively change girls’ lives around the world,” Tibbetts said. “They are using their own access to higher education to pay it forward to girls who are simply striving to complete a basic education – an idea we hope continues to spread across their campuses and the state.”

Brunson said she wants to see her chapter succeed.

“With this being our first semester, I hope to have a good response from the girls so we can create a strong club foundation,” Brunson said. “My goal for She’s the First is to raise campus-wide awareness for our cause.”

If even one girl can receive a chance for education, the boundaries are limitless, Brunson said.

“Not only [is She’s the First a] great opportunity to reach out to global students, but to take the opportunity of our education at SMC and educate other girls around the world,” she said.

For more information on She’s the First, contact Mileva Brunson at [email protected]


The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Charity work empowers girls abroad

Tori Roeck | Thursday, August 23, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article has been edited to correct an incorrect quote about Brown’s work to establish a girls’ soccer team in Cambodia.

The next cover girl for Seventeen magazine might be a familiar face. Senior Lindsay Brown has been named a finalist for Seventeen’s second-annual “Pretty Amazing Contest,” and the winner will be put on the cover of the magazine’s October issue.

Brown said the contest rewards girls who have been doing exceptional work.

“Each year Seventeen puts a real girl on the cover to celebrate the accomplishments of one of the readers that has done something that they say is ‘pretty amazing,'” Brown said. “It can be anything from … charity work or an athletic accomplishment or dance.”

In addition to appearing on the cover of Seventeen Magazine, the winner also receives $20,000 toward her work and tours the world giving speeches on behalf of Seventeen, Brown said.

Brown said she found out about the contest from the president of the non-profit She’s the First, an organization that sponsors girls’ tuition in impoverished areas; she was working for She’s the First at the time.

“My friend in New York City who’s the president of She’s the First found out about it on Twitter …. and she forwarded it onto me,” she said. “It was due April 30th, and I never really got around to it until the last day.”

Brown said she started working for She’s the First her sophomore year by running a simple bake sale with the help of her then-teammates on the Notre Dame women’s soccer team to raise money for tuition at a girls’ school in Nepal.

“I went on the Nepal website and emailed the founder,” she said. “It was really cool talking to her and telling her, ‘Oh, my soccer team helped me raise the money,’ and she used to play soccer. We instantly hit it off.”

This experience led Brown to start her own non-profit, the S.E.G.W.A.Y. project, which stands for “Soccer Empowering Girls Worldwide and You.”

“It kind of worked out that it stands for that because when I got to Nepal, the girls … were just so timid, reserved and shy,” Brown said. “I was telling my mom, ‘What good is it to have them in the classroom if they’re not leaders in the community?’ That’s when I realized soccer can be used to teach confidence and leadership so they can segue into community leaders.”

Brown said she was amazed by the impact the soccer team had on that Nepali village.

“The boys really started respecting the girls when they realized, ‘Oh, they can play soccer,'” she said. “It was weird. [These are] things we don’t think about, but in their community it’s ground-breaking.”

So far, the S.E.G.W.A.Y. project has launched three girls’ soccer teams in Nepal and is expanding to other countries, Brown said.

“I’m creating one in Cambodia,” she said. “We’re also partnered with a team in Kenya. Our goal is to help them fund their team trip to a tournament in Minnesota next July.”

Brown said she hopes the Pretty Amazing Contest will create publicity for her organization and inspire other girls to make efforts to perform service.

“I hope girls can realize that something as simple as a bake sale can make a huge impact on a girl’s life,” she said.

Brown said the contest’s results should be announced within the next two weeks.