Hey! I Know Her: Tammy Tibbetts

You know when you're just so in awe of the people in your life that you sometimes have to pinch yourself and say, "I can't believe I'm so lucky to have them as a friend?" I actually feel that way every day. I look at my friends and think they're some of the sweetest, strongest, most inspiring women on the planet, and how they made their way into my life, I have no idea. But I'm truly thankful.

Photo Credit: Kate Lord Sander

And because of that, I thought it'd be fun to feature them in a new monthly interview series. Welcome to "Hey! I Know Her!"

Last week, I went over to my friend Tammy Tibbetts' home where she introduced me to smoothie bowls and we sat on her patio for hours just chatting. In case you haven't heard of her yet, she's taking the world by storm. She's the founder of "She's The First," a nonprofit committed to funding girls' education in low-income countries. Check out my Q&A with her below!

Q: So, I remember sitting with you in the Hearst Cafeteria in 2008, and She's the First was just an idea in your head. You were so enthusiastic about it then -- but did you ever imagine it would be what it is today?
A: When we launched, it was just a YouTube video. I thought it'd just be a social media campaign that would inspire people to sponsor girls’ education. I never imagined it would spawn a network of campus chapters that’s now close to 200, a coalition of 10 partner schools, a staff of 4 people, 5 interns, and our own office space.

Q: What do you think is to thank for its success?
A: I would say the action of college students was the match that lit the fire. When the video started resonating with them and they started organizing events and activities, that’s what made it grow so much faster than I anticipated.

Q: What do you see in the college students that you saw in yourself when you were their age?
A: I see what I was looking for. I have a diary entry to prove it from when I was a senior in college -- I knew that I was graduating from my journalism program and would probably get hired, but I didn’t feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. And I think these students found that very thing I was looking for.

Q: On my way here, I was listening to a TED Talks podcast about success, and all of these people were trying to define it. You've been touted as successful by everyone from TIME to Marie Claire. But what's your personal definition of success?
A. Having a big idea and making it happen with the help of other people.

Q: You're obviously passionate about your nonprofit and girls' education, but what else gets you excited?
A. Running and fitness. I was traumatized by being picked last in gym and never thought I was capable of running a marathon or half-marathon or even going to a fitness class. Then as people started signing up to have fundraisers and races that were dedicated to She’s the First fundraising, I thought maybe I could do that too. It’s become my stress reliever, source of endorphins, and way of meeting other people in the community.

Q: You recently ran and finished the NYC marathon. As someone who will probably never do that in her life, I'm dying to know what it feels like. What was going on through your head when you crossed the end?
A: "Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god!" I was crying. I’m someone who generally has her emotions in check, but you just lose it all. I was rounding Central Park South and saw the Hearst Tower, and that was the dream that brought me to New York, and now I’m in a bigger dream.

Q: It felt like magic, huh? Remember that time New Year's Eve 2010 where we were walking down Wall Street and these girls just handed us balloons? It was a magical experience. Magic seems to follow you. What have been other moments in NYC for you that felt kind of surreal? 
A: One time on the subway there was a man who had a suitcase, and it just seemed that his whole life was in it. He was wearing a suit that was pretty tattered, and he had a drawing pad and charcoal pencils. He started drawing a face of a woman that was seated near him. He was so talented. As he was sketching, people started to notice that the face on the paper was of the woman two seats down. I started to see their smiles. It was like a human connection moment. And when the woman noticed, the way her face lit up... it was a really beautiful moment. There have been other times like when a blind person tries to cross the street and a stranger will take their arm. I think ultimately there’s a lot of passion. Even when the subway is really crowded on a hot day and everyone’s cursing each other out and shoving or rolling eyes, in the moments where it matters, people rise to the occasion.

Q: What have you learned most about yourself as you've built this nonprofit?
A: That it’s okay to not have all the answers right now. You need to have faith that if you attract the right people around you and you keep putting things out there and letting people know what you need, it'll somehow always come together. And that works in life, too! Like I'm wanting to adopt a dog so I'm manifesting one: if anyone knows of a small house-trained hypoallergenic dog, 4 years or younger, let me know!

Q: Can I dog-sit for you when you get one?
A: Yes!

Q: You and your co-founder Christen Brandt were recently featured on my favorite morning show, and Jenna Bush Hager asked if you were happy. Obviously the answer is yes. But what makes you happiest?
A: Yesterday morning when I was running through Central Park and the sky was bright blue, I was really happy. Being healthy and able to use my legs and have energy that I can then channel into so many other things, that's the best. Oh, and cookies and truffles. *Grabs the Momofuko Milk Bar goodies I brought over.*

Q: Yeah, that's a wrap. Can we eat these now? 
A: *Already on it*

If you're interested in hearing more about Tammy's nonprofit or want to donate to help sponsor a girl's education, click here

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