She’s the First sponsors education for girls around the world

The student group uses bake sales, fundraising and word of mouth to finance girls’ education in developing nations.

by Layna Darling

Young women at the University of Minnesota are raising scholarship money so girls in low-income countries can go to college.

She’s the First is a nonprofit organization that conducts fundraising events — such as selling cupcakes on the Washington Avenue Bridge and an upcoming grilled cheese delivery sale — to sponsor education for girls in developing countries.

The campus chapter nearly tripled its membership from about 30 people last year to 90 this fall. The increase is the biggest the group has seen since it was founded by University students in 2013, said Ashley Aune, the group’s president.

The group’s popularity has grown after they secured a table at Welcome Week this year and existing members told their friends to join. , Aune said, and

“Some members bring seven friends to a meeting,” she said.

Sage Iverson, a science and engineering freshman and new member of She’s the First, said she learned about the club from a friend.

“Being a woman in STEM, I’m really interested in education,” Iverson said.

Shesaid her favorite part about the organization is its sense of community.

“Even though we may be different, we’re all trying to work together to lift women up collectively,” Iverson said.

Last year, the group was able to provide a $400 scholarship for four young girls across the world, Aune said.

The national organization was founded in 2009 and sets chapters up with girls in low-income countries who are the first in their family to go to college.

She’s the First has sponsored girls in Ethiopia, India, Peru, Nepal, Tanzania and the Gambia.

With the membership surge, the University’s chapter hopes to sponsor five girls this year, Aune said.

In a letter to She’s the First, Janani — an eleventh-grade girl the group sponsors — wrote about how important the organization has been to her education.

“She’s the First has inspired me to fulfill others’ needs before my own,” Janani said. “I am grateful to She’s the First for giving me the confidence I need to freely express my opinions and for supporting me through my education.”

While high membership is beneficial for the organization, Aune said the main goal is to empower young women and encourage girls’ education for those who might not have had the means to go to school.

“The most important thing is … providing an equal education opportunity for them,” Aune said.