She's the First *{Rutgers} takes NYC!

Sporting a scarlet red dress, black pointed-toed pumps, and a silver Rutgers pin, I couldn’t help but feel extremely official as I strode through the large glass doors of the New York Times early Tuesday morning. After speed-walking through throngs of tourists, commuters, and construction workers in the bustling streets of New York City, Priya Angara, Kristen Huang, Komal Patel, and I breathed a sigh of relief and looked excitedly at each other. We had made it. We were here. The second annual She’s the First Mentor Breakfast. 

She’s the First is an organization dedicated to raising scholarships for girls in low-income countries to be the first in their families to graduate. There are countless ways to get involved, whether it be through volunteering, donating, or joining a campus chapter. As a member of She’s the First *{Rutgers}, I am proud to support this extraordinary organization and am always looking for ways to further my involvement. So when Katie Riley, the campus program coordinator for She’s the First, reached out to the Rutgers chapter and asked if four members would be interested in attending the Mentor Breakfast as campus representatives, I was thrilled. The Mentor Breakfast, which would take place on November 17th, served “to honor distinguished supporters and unite multiple generations behind our mission: Educating girls worldwide.” One Skype call, several emails, and hundreds of GroupMe messages later, She’s the First *{Rutgers} took off to New York City. 

 

From left to right: Priya Angara, Komal Patel, Tammy Tibbetts (She's the First founder), Kristen Huang, and Brenna Mazur

As we emerged through the elevator doors on the fifteenth floor of the New York Times, we were greeted by the phenomenal She’s the First staff (composed of Tammy Tibbetts, Christen Brandt, Perrie Rizzo, and Katie Riley) and two scholars from Nepal, Sirjana and Jharana. Our job as campus representatives was to welcome the 150 distinguished guests as they arrived while on Skype with four She’s the First scholars in India. Each guest was able to say hello to the girls on the screen, who responded by waving enthusiastically and and blowing lots of kisses. The excitement was contagious (including my excitement as I totally fangirled over Ann Shoket- what can I say?! Seventeen was my bible growing up), and we could tell the morning was off to a great start. 

 

We made it to the She's the First instagram!

As guests found their seats, Tammy Tibbetts and Christen Brandt kicked the event off at 8am with some welcome remarks, followed by Devon Chandler’s performance of “Astonishing” from the musical Little Women. The next hour or so was dedicated to honoring five women, each with their own admirable achievements in helping to make girls education a global reality. Daria Foster of Lord, Abbett, & Co. LLC presented the first award, Mentor of the Year, to the illustrious Maureen Mitchell, President of Global Sales & Marketing for GE Asset Management. In her acceptance speech, Mitchell spoke of how she not only supports She's the First, but also mentors women in her own workplace to succeed in their careers. Her devotion to empowering women on both the local and global scale left the entire room feeling inspired. 

Up next Cindi Leive, editor-in-chief of GLAMOUR, graced the stage to present the Mentorship Duo of the Year award. Recipients Jane Wurwand, founder of Dermalogica, and Natalie Byrne, director of Global Impact for Dermalogica's FITE initiative, challenged everyone in the room to ask themselves what can I do? How can I help? They encouraged pulling another woman into the space behind you as you move forward, and quoted Madeleine Albright in a saying I will now never forget- “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” 

Finally, following an introduction by a beloved second grade teacher Becca Wertheim, Jharana and Sirjana came to the stage to accept their Mentees of the Year award. (The girls, ages 11 and 15, are She's the First scholars from Kopila Valley School in Nepal.) “How cool is this?!” exclaimed Sirjana as she looked at all of her supporters in the crowd. And cool it most definitely was. Cool, in fact, might have even be an understatement. This dynamic duo captivated the audience as they discussed organizing a 5K Race for Equality and how they constantly work towards girls education, both in Nepal and around the world. Though they may have been the smallest ones in the room, it was extremely evident that their ideas and efforts are larger than life, and their uplifting words earned them a standing ovation. In the words of Becca Wertheim, you’re never too young to make a difference. 

Posing with STF scholars from Nepal, Sirjana and Jharana!

Overall the second annual She’s the First Mentor Breakfast was a huge success, featuring good food and great people, all united for an outstanding reason: girls education. It was an absolute pleasure to help with the event and be surrounded such a passionate group of people. And even though I am now back in good old New Brunswick, sporting a Rutgers hoodie and black leggings, I still feel extremely official. Officially empowered. Officially inspired. Officially devoted to an astonishing organization.