Tammy Tibbetts, the girl voted “Most Shy” in senior year of high school, has come out of her shell in a big way.
“I always felt I had a leader inside me but I hadn’t spoken up in class or run for Student Council. Being voted most shy meant that I was the person most in fear of other people’s judgments and that wasn’t the legacy I wanted to leave.”
Her new legacy would take root in college when Tammy discovered the story of one woman in Liberia who was helping children impacted by the civil war. A dozen years of brutal fighting had turned children into soldiers and left the education system in tatters. Later, after turning in an assignment as a student journalist, Tammy decided to get involved.
“I couldn’t ignore those facts as a journalist and walk away. I had to do something about it.”
On her own vacation time, Tammy traveled to Liberia as a volunteer for a foundation in New York City. She saw firsthand how tough it was for girls especially to get an education; yet how critical it was to building a better future for themselves and their families. A light went on in her head.
“I realized there was something I could do on social media. I could put this idea out there as a public service campaign; encourage my generation, the millennials, to host a fundraiser with their friends. When you look at the cost of education in developing countries, it’s really not that much for us to raise.”
In 2009, Tammy teamed up with Christen Brandt and started promoting her idea of supporting girls’ education, posting pictures and stories on Facebook and Twitter.
“We struck a chord here. We didn’t realize there was such a void for young people to get involved and take action. We were on the frontlines of what was about to explode.”
Between her fulltime job at Hearst Magazines, her volunteer work and her new social media campaign, Tammy had no time to be shy.
“I saw how my skills in digital media were transferrable to nonprofit.”
The result is She’s the First. Launched in 2009 as a YouTube video campaign, STF provides scholarships to girls in low-income countries, giving them the chance to become the first in their families to graduate from high school.
“We have many supporters who are first generation college graduates, including myself.”
In 2012 Tammy left her media career to work fulltime with She’s the First.
The organization focuses primarily on secondary school, when girls are particularly vulnerable to factors that prevent them from graduating.
Each chosen ‘STF Scholar’ is given tools and resources to ensure her success during and after her school years. In addition to basic academics, they learn how to apply their new skills out in the world, encouraged by support systems and mentors every step of the way.
Research shows that education raises a girl’s future wages by 18 percent.
They also tend to marry later, delay childbirth, practice improved hygiene which helps reduce the spread of disease and are less likely to become victims of sexual abuse.
The ultimate goal of She’s the First is to raise up student leaders and scholars to become change agents who will break the cycles of generational poverty and become the next generation of global leaders.
Since its inception, She’s the First has expanded its horizons with 125 chapters in 10 countries. The number of girl scholars is over 529 and counting.
Becoming an outspoken advocate for the education of girls in developing countries has made this once shy girl into a believer…in herself and others.
“I had many awkward years myself,” recalls Tammy. But finding confidence in who you are and the power in your voice… that is what She’s the First does for all of our scholars.”
For her work with She’s the First, Tammy was named one of Marie Claire’s 20 Women Changing the World and Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Education. She is also a recipient of Diane von Furstenberg’s People’s Voice Award and Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women.,
We’ve come up with some great ways for you to impact a girl’s future, and maybe your own!
Buy a gift, run a race, sell tie-dye cupcakes, show our documentary film and lead a discussion, start a chapter or volunteer. Get creative ideas and get involved.