Saint Mary’s Hall (SMH) seniors Chelsea H. ‘21 and Devika K. ’21 firmly believe that poverty should not stand in the way of a girl’s success. In response, they created a local She’s the First chapter, which recently raised enough money to put a Tanzanian girl through one year of high school. In 2018, during their sophomore year, they started She’s the First as part of their community service goals related to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award program.
“We were inspired to start an SMH chapter because we did not see any clubs that incorporated gender equality as their main objective. After learning about the great inequalities that exist in education in low-income countries, we felt incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to attend high school,” said Devika. “Even though we can’t dismantle the systemic sexism in these countries, we believe it is important to recognize the impact that a high school education can have on a girl’s life.”
She’s the First, a national organization, supports girls in economically challenged countries in attending high school, and reaches more than 138,000 girls each year across 26 countries through their work to strengthen ecosystems and advocate for girls’ rights. To date, the organization has positively impacted more than 102,000 girls through campus community, toolkits, trainings, and partner programs.
The SMH chapter studies world affairs, discusses the impact students can have on global issues, organizes fundraisers, and plans to increase awareness through 5K events and documentary screenings.
Since its inception, the chapter has been able to sponsor five girls from three different “girl groups” in South Sudan, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania for one year of high school. This includes the cost of transportation, school supplies, uniforms, and other necessities.
With more than 80 members and many non-members eager to donate and contribute in a variety of ways, Chelsea and Devika attribute the chapter’s achievements to the overwhelming support received from the SMH community.
“We couldn’t have accomplished anything without the support of our classmates, teachers, and administrators. When we originally came up with the idea for this club, we never imagined the kind of impact this school community would allow us to have,” said Chelsea. “We are so glad that She’s the First has inspired many people in our community to become global citizens and lead discussions on global issues.”
As for the future, Chelsea and Devika believe the next leadership of the chapter will continue its success in supporting girls in successfully attaining a quality education.
“We trust that our future leadership, President Eleanor A. ‘24 and Vice President Ines W. ’24, will continue to do great things in the club and foster these kinds of discussions,” said Devika. “We hope to remain a club at SMH for many years to come, and increase our community engagement.”
Student organizations and clubs, especially those with a focus on service, are a key ingredient of the SMH student experience. Learn more about SMH Student Life here.