Discover Lasell

A First-Class Achievement

December 18, 2017

Five scholarship recipients. Four countries. Three months of planning. Two powerful student leaders. One incredible conference.

Corrine Hennessey '18 and Christina Tomasik '20, president and vice president of She's the First at Lasell College, hosted the school's initial She's the First Leadership Conference in December 2017 to promote global education awareness, to share career resources for women in the workplace, and to raise funds for young women's education in developing countries.

She's the First was founded in 2009 to promote education as a powerful tool to advance female success. The organization has more than 200 nationwide chapters in elementary, secondary, and higher education institutions, including Lasell since 2012. Each chapter raises funds and awareness to support girls in developing countries, providing scholarships to ensure a strong secondary education and preparation for higher education. The Lasell chapter currently sponsors students in Nepal, Tanzania, and Guatemala.

"Our advocacy and fundraising work helps to provide each of our sponsored girls with mentorship resources, tutors, school clothes, books, materials, and anything else they need to be successful as a student," said Hennessey. "It's so easy to be passionate about this club and to want to do more with it."

Hennessey and Tomasik did just that. After the success of their International Women's Gala last spring, they sought to host a more robust program on female education and empowerment with the added perspective of guest speakers.

"I had an epiphany over the summer after attending the She's the First Summit in New York," said Hennessey. "Success means something different to everyone, and I was struggling to navigate my own path to achieving it. I realized that I could bring in a number of women to campus to share their perspective and stories while using the event as a fundraising opportunity for the organization."

Hennessey's inspiration led her to develop a full-fledged campus event - the leadership conference - where more than 40 community members participated in workshops and speaker sessions.

Speakers included keynote Amanda Gorman, a Harvard sophomore recently named the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate and the founder of One Pen One Page; Lasell's Director of Legal Services and Title IX Coordinator Jennifer OKeeffe; Patti Ricotta, cofounder and president of Life Together International; Alex Dickinson, founder and CEO of Ask For It (a company focused on career and negotiation coaching); and Jackie Carnevali, cofounder and CEO of the Navionics Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to improving learning opportunities in India.

"There was a moment when everything just clicked," said Tomasik. "It was so powerful to see all of these women together in one room, sharing their stories."

For Hennessey and Tomasik, the conference marked the start of an ambitious year. They're already planning the second annual International Women's Month Gala in March and - thanks to proceeds from the conference - are able to sponsor another young woman's education in either Uganda or India.

"Through planning this event, it became clear that I'll always be successful and so will these girls," said Hennessey. "We'll always have the ability to change our definition of success, to modify our paths, and to adapt our goals."