Meet Tammy Tibbetts: From “Most Shy” to “Changing the World”

Tammy Tibbetts, Founder and President of She’s the First

To change the world, you have to change yourself first” – Tammy Tibbetts

This month’s Young Woman to Watch is Tammy Tibbetts, Founder and President of She’s the First, a non-profit organization committed to sponsoring girls’ education in developing nations, with the goal of creating more first-generation graduates and shaping the next generation of global leaders. On Monday, September 8th, Leadarise welcomed Tammy at The Medici Group in New York City for a discussion on her journey to begin this incredible organization.

Tammy Tibbetts and Emily Pease McKenzie talk about the evolution of She’s the First

Around the world, girls continue to face struggles — for instance, only 1 in 3 girls worldwide have the opportunity to enroll in high school, and many face not only cultural, but geographical challenges. For the girls who do have the opportunity to graduate from secondary school, they earn 18% higher wages, marry later, have healthier children and, perhaps most importantly, reinvest back into their community.

She’s the First didn’t start out as an NGO but evolved organically and actually started as a “call to action” through a YouTube video in 2009. The video struck a cord with many young women at universities, which prompted Tammy to turn her project into an NGO, and now, her full time job.

Since it’s inception, She’s the First has sponsored almost 400 girls, 896 years of education across 10 partner countries and has 116 chapters in the US.

What’s the reason for She’s the First‘s success? “I think it’s grown so quickly in 5 years is because its relatable. The mission is very much a mirror for yourself in some ways—whether you are the first in your family to graduate from college or move to New York City, you too had to overcome obstacles. Maybe you didn’t have an example to follow, but because of access to education and mentors, you were able to figure it out.

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Leadarise participants gather for a photo with Tammy Tibbetts

You may find this hard to believe, but in high school Tammy was voted “Most Shy” by her peers!  “My shyness,” she explained, “stood in my way and prevented me from speaking out for anything I believed in, where in reality, I had a voice that was powerful.”

No one’s calling Tammy “shy” anymore – her work as a social entrepreneur has been recognized by Forbes, Fast Company, MSNBC and she is featured in the September 2014 issue of Marie Claire as one of the “20 Women Changing the World“, alongside Chelsea Clinton and Melinda Gates.

Tammy encouraged participants to to pursue their dreams, but also to look for resources and organizations that already exist, “Instead of starting something from scratch, look for ways to act as an intrapreneur.” In other words, make a change from the inside by taking the lead on a project or starting a new initiative.  

Thanks for sharing your inspirational story with us, Tammy and reminding us all that we can be “first” to bring about change!

For more information on how you can get involved with She’s The First, visit:

By Sarah Reinheimer

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