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In Case You Missed It: Tuesday Toast with Catherine Schwartz

This week’s Tuesday Toast featured the charming and hilarious Catherine Schwartz. Catherine is currently a sophomore and is from Austin, TX. She spoke about her work and involvement with Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party, which “is an online network and community movement to ‘Change the world by being yourself.’”

Catherine emphasized that in order to change the world by being yourself, you have to discover what being you means, and, as Meredith Walker said, “Being yourself is a life long quest.” Schwartz says that, “Smart Girls [provides] reference materials along the way to finding yourself.”

The origins of Smart Girls makes this mission even more compelling: Schwartz explained that the organization grew from a conversation between Amy Poehler and Meredith Walker about Middle School. As we all grimace at our own Middle School memories, could you ever think of a better time in your life where you needed to be more confident in yourself?

As Schwartz explained, Middle School is a time where “you have all of these ideas of things that you want to do, but no one is taking them to heart.” And, this is where Smart Girls comes to the rescue: “It has real conversations with girls that shows them that whatever they want to do they can do it.”

Alongside Smart Girl’s journey, Catherine shared her own personal journey in working with the organization, not without her signature wit and charisma. Schwartz had always aspired to a career in television or media. “Mainly because I love attention,” she said. After the laughter hushed, this comment blossomed into a hilarious collection of anecdotes from Catherine’s childhood— soccer fields as cat walks, a personal theme song to be performed at family reunions… if you didn’t love Catherine already, you definitely should now.

These experiences and her love of television lead her into the Career Services Office, who eventually put her in touch with Meredith Walker, a Sewanee alumna and Smart Girls founder. Catherine said she was originally attracted to intern with Smart Girls because the motto resonated with her, saying that we often put a lot of a pressure on ourselves to do and be something, yet “all it takes is the courage to go ahead and do it.” After a coffee date and fretting over some e-mail exchanges, Catherine was offered to intern with Smart Girls. 

She said that she was inspired one particular story when working with Smart Girls: Ruth, the 79 year-old rocking drummer. Ruth’s story prompted Catherine and Smart Girls alike to ask, “Why don’t you, if you can?” A profoundly simple thought, as Catherine said, “It’s kind of scary and untethering that you can do whatever you want to do.” We’re with you, Schwartz…

Schwartz highlighted how hard we are on ourselves, saying “Sometimes I think things about myself, and I’m like, hey, don’t talk about my friend that way!” Luckily, positive thinking seems to be an automatic part of Smart Girls’ mission.

In addition to some great and thought provoking work, Catherine got to do some pretty cool tasks during her time with Smart Girls. Catherine researched and booked people to feature in their videos. She worked on their social media and responded to e-mails to the organization, which included filtering some interesting YouTube comments, as well as choosing questions to be featured in Ask Amy segments. Catherine also got to design a Smart Girl onesie for Jimmy Fallon’s newborn… as if we weren’t already jealous enough.

While performing her tasks as an intern, Catherine had the opportunity to meet some amazing women. She specifically mentioned a firefighter, Xochi, and a stunt woman, Camille. Xochi, the featured firefighter, was one of the only female firefighters in all of Austin and said that if you climbed the nine-story ladder, “you could do anything.” So, naturally, Catherine, being the amazing person that she is, climbed the ladder.

In addition to featuring women in their Operation Nice segment, the program also encourages people to do something nice for one another, such as “small acts of kindness, not even just buying someone a drink or giving some a giftcard, [but] spending time with someone or holding the door.”

Another program, Girls of the World, one of Catherine’s favorites, features inspiring girls from all over the globe. From Mali to Cape Town to Vietnam, Catherine said that the segment’s goal was just to show what other girls do across the globe and what lights them up. When asked if there were any commonalities between all the girls, Catherine said, “Besides boy bands? They all really like boy bands… I don’t know. Probably that the girls that are sending the videos have something they’re passionate about to send the videos.” 

Not surprisingly, Catherine said that working for Smart Girls didn’t feel a lot like work most days: “Working there—it never really felt like work… I kept thinking, how is this a job, like how are people getting paid for this?” Catherine shared stories stories of office meetings down a lazy river, dirtbiking, parasailing, and getting to test out the Get Your Hair Wet campaign on the clock. Catherine is ready to return to her Smart Girls this summer, saying, “There are a lot of things in the works, and I’m excited to go back.”

So, everyone, in honor of this inspiring Tuesday Toast:

Alli Smith is a sophomore from Charlotte, NC. She's majoring in English, with minors in Education and Women's and Gender Studies. She's an avid procrastinator who loves anything on TLC. She's particularly interested in female empowerment and positive sexuality. 
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