How She Got There: Lindsay Brown, Seventeen’s Pretty Amazing Contest Winner

Name: Lindsay Brown
Age: 21
Job Title: Founder of The SEGway Project (Soccer Empowering Girls Worldwide and You)
College/Major: University of Notre Dame/Political Science (International Relations)
Twitter Handle: @lindsaybrown10

Her Campus: Congratulations on winning Seventeen’s Pretty Amazing contest! What was your initial reaction when the mag surprised you at school?
Lindsay Brown: It felt like I was dreaming when Seventeen surprised me at school! I had no idea my coaches and teammates were planning a surprise like that. Seventeen didn’t even tell my parents beforehand! I was so happy my teammates were there with me to celebrate because they have helped me organize She’s the First events since I first started a few years ago. Without them there’s no way my cupcake sales could have been so successful, so it was really special that they were there to surprise me with the incredible news.

HC: How do you hope this will inspire Seventeen’s 13 million readers to take action and create positive, lasting change like you have?
LB: I hope when Seventeen readers see my story they realize something as simple as a cupcake can make a profound change in a girl’s life half way around the world. I started with one cupcake sale that raised enough money to send one girl to school. Today, we’ve raised over $22,000 from cupcake sales alone and have sent more than 50 girls to school in Africa, Asia, and South America. I believe my story shows that when you’re passionate about something, it’s contagious. I hope readers ask themselves what little thing can they be doing each and every day to make a positive impact in someone else’s life.

HC: You wear many hats, whether it’s at STF*{Notre Dame}, the SEGway project, or at the Kopila Valley soccer team. How do you balance all of that in addition to school, friends, family… We’re losing our breath, here!
LB: To be honest, I never realized how much I had taken on over the past three years until I sat down to write my Seventeen “Pretty Amazing” entry essay. I think I never noticed because I’ve loved every second of it. Of course it hasn’t been easy: When I played soccer I would go to bed at 1 a.m. after a bake sale and wake up at 5 a.m. for practice everyday. But when you see the impact you are making in these girls’ lives, literally changing them forever, you can’t help but feel like you can be doing more. The only time it became hard to balance everything was the first time I returned from Nepal. I would be playing soccer at Notre Dame physically, but mentally I’d be in Nepal. At that point I knew I needed to make a change. It was a difficult decision to retire but also a liberating one to have the time needed to start my own nonprofit. I’ve learned that when you have a clear sense of your priorities, you’re able to balance school, family, friends and everything else without becoming overwhelmed. For me, my number one priority right now is expanding The SEGway Project and supporting the Kopila girls, so sacrificing my sleep or social life every now and then doesn’t really feel like much of a sacrifice.

HC: Do you miss playing soccer on a regular basis? Was retiring one the greatest challenges of your undergraduate career?
LB: I do miss playing soccer on a regular basis. I realized how much I missed it over the summer when I was working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There are tons of pick-up soccer games on the streets but only men play so I had to be a spectator. It was painful, but at the same time it served as a daily reminder as to why I retired in the first place, to give girls in these developing countries the opportunity to play. Deciding to retire at the end of my junior season is probably the biggest decision I’ve ever made. I’ve played soccer since the age of five, so it felt like I was losing part of my identity… but I knew that to be able to create my own nonprofit organization and start even more girls’ soccer teams beyond Nepal I needed to retire. Sacrificing my senior season will never compare to the sacrifices these girls have made to go school and get an education. When I came to this realization I knew retiring was the right decision and one I’d never regret.

HC: Is the satisfaction you receive from performing your humanitarian work similar to running across the field and scoring that winning goal?
LB: I’d go as far as to say that the satisfaction I receive from empowering these little girls is greater than scoring any winning goal. I think this is why I was able to walk away from my senior season. When my Notre Dame soccer team and I won the National Championship in 2010 I remember how amazing it felt to receive my medal standing next to my thirty teammates who I would do anything in the world for. In Nepal, at first it would make me sad to think that the girls will probably never play a game in matching uniforms, wearing cleats instead of being barefoot, on a field that actually has grass and with a referee to call the game. But when I’d watch them play and see them celebrate after every goal, it was as if they had just won a National Championship too. To see them so happy and confident and to know soccer was the reason why- I just knew I needed to expand my project and create more girls’ teams.

HC: What has working with Tammy Tibbetts and the entire She’s the First team been like?
LB: Working with Tammy and the entire She’s the First team has been so inspiring. I like to say that we set out to empower these girls in the developing world without realizing we’re empowering ourselves at the same time. Maggie Doyne built Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School at 19-years-old. At 25-years-old, Tammy left her job to work entirely on building She’s the First. Seeing these two young women make huge sacrifices for something they believe in has inspired me to take great leaps of faith in leaving the Notre Dame soccer team and starting my own nonprofit. The STF team has made me realize age is irrelevant, if you’re passionate about something you can make an impact.

HC: Who inspires you the most and how?
LB: There are two girls in my life that I consider to be my pillars of strength. One is my grandmother Petra, and the other is the first Kopila girl I sponsored named Hima. When I’m with Hima I see so much of my grandmother in her who grew up living on less than $2 a day in rural Puerto Rico. However, I don’t see a struggling, little girl—instead I see a strong, resilient young woman. Both my grandmother and Hima have experienced pain and hunger in ways I’ll never know, but having them in my life gives me hope and confidence that getting an education will allow Hima and thousands of other girls to escape the cycle of poverty they were born into just like my grandmother did 75 years ago. My grandmother’s name means “rock” in Spanish, so it’s only fitting that she’s the strongest woman I know. Last summer when I asked Hima what her name meant in Nepali, she pointed to the nearby Himalayan foothills and said “Big Rock.” I guess I can say these two girls really are my “rocks” and my heroes.

HC: How has your international endeavors working in Nepal enhanced your college experience?
LB: In ways I could have never imagined! As an international relations student, the articles I read and theories I learn in class come to life when I am traveling in countries like Nepal and Cambodia. What I’ve learned in class has helped me better understand the political and development obstacles these countries face such as government corruption. At the same time, I’m able to bring my experiences back into the classroom here at Notre Dame. A lot of the time, I find myself playing devil’s advocate challenging theories of development I might not have thought twice about if I didn’t witness their failure while abroad. My travel experiences have inspired me to go to graduate school and further study international relations in the hopes of one day working for the United Nations or World Bank. I hope to connect policy makers and humanitarian workers on the ground, making sure foreign aid actually reaches those who need it most.

HC: Do the girls in Nepal know about your big win?
LB: I emailed the founder of Kopila Valley School a picture of the magazine right after the big reveal so she was able to show the girls. They were all so excited! When I was in Nepal last month I brought Seventeen’s July issue along which had a one-page story on the five Pretty Amazing finalists. Under my name it said I had started a girls’ soccer team in Nepal. When the girls read the word “Nepal” they were beyond happy and just so proud of their country. It made me realize how fortunate I am to share a connection with this community and I feel so honored to give the girls of Nepal a voice through this contest. I mailed a few copies of the magazine the next day so they should get there in about three weeks!

HC: What message do you have for your fellow 20-somethings who want to make a positive impact?
LB: Don’t let the enormity of any problem overwhelm you. I started with one academic sponsorship that has now turned into 50 plus on three different continents. If I were to become overwhelmed by the fact that millions of girls remain out of school, then I would have failed the one little Kopila girl I started with. Start small and before you know it you’ll have created a ripple of change. Who knows—maybe one day you’ll be on the cover of Seventeen, too!

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Gennifer is the Branded Content Specialist for Her Campus Media. In her role, she manages all sponsored content across platforms including editorial, social, and newsletters. As one of HC's first-ever writers, she previously wrote about career, college life, and more as a national writer during her time at Hofstra University. She also helped launch the How She Got There section, where she interviewed inspiring women in various industries. She lives in New York City.

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