She’s the First fights for equality in education

she's the first
Members of She’s the First gather for their annual tie-dye cupcake benefit to raise money for their sponsor school in Nepal. Credit: Provided

Want to change the world one girl at a time? Meet Amanda Parks, president of the She’s the First campus chapter at The College of New Jersey. She’s the First works to provide education in developing nations to give girls the chance to become the first in their families to graduate from secondary school.

Parks, a senior, proudly proclaims, “I am and always will be an advocate for equality in girls’ education worldwide. She’s the First has changed my perspective on education.” She adds, “Fighting for equality in education at the hands of girls is something that I will take with me after graduating because being committed to this cause is a forever thing.”

In the countries where She’s the First works, only one out of every three girls attends secondary school, she said, and “one’s gender should not determine the opportunities they are afforded.”

Whenever Parks is stressed out, she gives herself a reality check with a reminder “of the girls we sponsor and the girls we have yet to sponsor because they are my motivation to get through long nights and stressful weeks.”

That motivation includes running fundraisers like their annual tie-dye cupcake bake sale as part of the organization’s worldwide bake-off. “It is exactly what it sounds like! TCNJ is one of 200-plus baking teams that gets together for a week to bake eye-catching and delicious tie-dye cupcakes to sell while raising awareness for She’s the First.” After having a table in their student center for five days, Parks’ chapter raised more than $1,700 to sponsor scholars in Nepal.

In addition to raising money, they raise awareness by gaining co-sponsors in other student organizations and “new members that didn’t know our organization existed before seeing our bake sale.”

Katie Riley, campus programs assistant at She’s the First headquarters in Chelsea, says chapters typically include 20 to 30 students (and yes, guys volunteer, too!) and they’re expanding: The organization anticipates having about 200 chapters by the end of next year. “Campus chapters are required to promote girls’ education issues via social media and host one awareness event (such as a panel or documentary screening) and one fundraising event per semester.”

As for what intrigues Parks about She’s the First, the short answer is community. After attending the three-day campus leadership summit in the fall, an annual retreat for campus chapter leaders, she “never felt more supportive” of a cause.

“I am passionate about this She’s the First family, or our #STFfamily as we call it on social media. I can call on any of my fellow campus chapter leaders when I need a creative idea for a fundraiser or just need to vent about something going particularly well with my campus chapter. It is comforting to know that I have that support system whenever I need it and when I least expect it.”

That family sense, says president and founder Tammy Tibbetts, is pervasive. Tibbetts, who was recently named to Time magazine’s 30 Under 30 list, explains, “She’s the First is not something I see students doing just to have a bullet point on their résumé. They are looking to change the world with a community — and that’s what we provide. Hence, family!

“In 2014 we are determined to scale up our success and raise $1 million to support our mission, to send more girls to school and support more youth worldwide in leading this movement,” Tibbetts continued. “If you ever wanted to be part of creating education equality in the world, now is the time to get involved.”


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