It’s been a busy couple of days. Last week, I had seven interviews in three different states. And I got a job offer! More about that later.
I wanted to post something new today. This is a piece I wrote for class about Lindsay Brown, a Notre Dame junior and a friend of mine. She’s doing some amazing things, and I think she’s a great role model. Lindsay was featured on an ad for Notre Dame during last night’s broadcast of the Notre Dame vs. Maryland football game on NBC. Read on to find out why…
When an NBC camera crew arrived in Nepal to film a commercial featuring Lindsay Brown, the students at the Kopila Valley Children’s School didn’t know how to react. “They didn’t understand what a commercial was because they’d never seen a TV,” said Brown, a Notre Dame junior who established the first girls’ soccer team in western Nepal in the summer of 2011. “They thought it was like a regular camera, so the girls kept striking poses with their soccer balls.”
Brown was featured in the “What Would You Fight For” series of advertisements for the University of Notre Dame that run on NBC during home football games. As a National Championship winning women’s soccer player, as a student, and as an ambassador for not-for-profit organizations like She’s the First and the BlinkNow! Foundation, Brown is fighting for girls’ education, on and off the field.
Brown was recruited to play soccer for Notre Dame during her sophomore year at Mater Dei High School. In addition to her high school varsity team, Brown also played soccer in an Olympic Development Program and for the Newport Beach, Calif. Slammers Futbol Club. When she wasn’t on the field, Brown was involved with her high school chapter of Operation Smile, a medical mission program that focused on the treatment of facial deformities in the developing world. She visited Madagascar on an Operation Smile trip during her senior year of high school.
“I’ve never liked being too overwhelmed with soccer,” said Brown. “I’ve always enjoyed playing soccer and doing other things too.” As a freshman at Notre Dame, Brown joined the campus chapter of Operation Smile, but found that she did not have the time to dedicate to it while she adjusted to the demands of collegiate academics and athletics. After taking an International Relations course, Brown became interested in international development and decided to declare a major in Political Science.
Towards the end of Brown’s freshman year, she stepped in to a leadership role in a new on-campus service organization called She’s the First. “The girl who had been in charge was going abroad and needed someone to take over, so I stepped up,” said Brown. She’s the First had been piloting its first fundraisers – bake sales in residence halls – at Notre Dame. The organization is partnered with schools in eight countries on three continents, and all money donated goes directly towards funding education for girls in developing countries.
When Brown officially took over the Notre Dame chapter of She’s the First in Fall 2010, she decided to hold a fundraising bake sale with a twist. “Everyone is tight on money, so we wanted to give people a good reason to buy cupcakes. It’s for a good cause, but we also made sure that the cupcakes looked really cool and different,” said Brown. Sixteen dozen of her special rainbow swirl tie-dye cupcakes sold out in two hours. At two dollars apiece, the cupcakes had raised $400 – more than enough to sponsor a student at the Kopila Valley Children’s School in Nepal.
The schools receiving funding from She’s the First send the donors photographs or notes from the sponsored students. Maggie Doyne, the She’s the First contact at Kopila Valley Children’s School, sent Brown an email with a photograph of the student whose education was paid for by the tie-dye cupcake sale.
Doyne, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, established the Kopila Valley Children’s Home and School in Surkhet, Nepal through her not-for-profit organization called the Blink Now! Foundation. Brown and some of her Notre Dame teammates led bake sales that raised enough money to sponsor two more students. Doyne, a former soccer player herself, encouraged her students to follow the Notre Dame women’s soccer team’s journey to the national championship.
“When we won, Maggie sent us a really cute picture of the three girls we had sponsored holding a soccer ball,” said Brown.
Brown applied for and was awarded an Experiencing the World Fellowship through Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. With the grant funding from the fellowship, Brown planned to spend four weeks in Nepal, staying at Doyne’s children’s home, working at the school, and establishing a girl’s soccer team.
During the first week of May, Brown got an email from the Office of Risk Management. Due to a State Department travel warning for Nepal, the University had determined that it would not be safe for Brown to travel to Surkhet. Her funding was revoked.
Holly Rivers, assistant director of the Kellogg Institute, explained: “Whenever there is a travel advisory on a country, the University takes a much closer look at what a student is asking to do there. In Lindsay’s case, she wasn’t traveling with a faculty member and we haven’t worked with that organization in the past, so the general counsel probably thought it was too risky to send her there on her own.”
Without approval from the University, Brown’s fellowship was revoked. She had already purchased her plane ticket, so her grandmother agreed to fund the rest of her trip.
Brown spent the summer in Surkhet, a town of 30,000 people at the base of the Himalayas. She lived at the children’s home, which houses 40 orphaned and abandoned children ranging in age from 14 years to 18 months. During the days, Brown tutored and taught second grade, but after school ended, it was time for soccer.
“The boys had had their own team for a while, but the girls just didn’t have a clue what to do. On the first day, they were trapping the ball with their hands,” said Brown. “At first, the boys would stand and laugh on the sidelines, but after a few weeks, the girls would be like, ‘Go away! It’s our day!’”
Brown underestimated the impact that learning a sport would have on the girls. “Soccer was so important. It gave the girls the confidence to address men and to realize that they can do things themselves,” she said. “You sometimes forget why you play soccer, but teaching these little girls helps you remember.”
During Brown’s fourth week in Surkhet, she received an email from Notre Dame asking if she would be willing to stay for a few extra weeks. NBC and Notre Dame wanted to fly a camera crew to Nepal to shoot a commercial for Notre Dame’s “What Would You Fight For?” series. The advertisements run on NBC during the broadcasts of Notre Dame’s home football games. Brown agreed to stay, so a three-person team from NBC flew out to Surkhet for two days of filming.
After seven and a half weeks in Nepal, Brown returned to Notre Dame for preseason training with the soccer team. The NBC crew came to campus to film Brown at practice and to interview her teammates, her coach, and athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
“The ad is fantastic,” said Waldrum. “It’s tear-jerking, really, and so inspiring – all about Notre Dame and what it stands for, Lindsay and the incredible job she has done supporting this cause, and it puts ND women’s soccer in the spotlight in a positive way as well,” said the coach.
“Lindsay is exactly the kind of student-athlete that we look for at Notre Dame, and the University and the women’s soccer program really wanted to celebrate her work with this ad,” said Associate Media Relations Director Chris Masters. Brown was featured in an article in the football program for September 19 game against Michigan State, and she will be profiled in the Athletics Department’s holiday book called “Strong of Heart.”
Since her return from Nepal in August, Brown felt distracted and overwhelmed while she practiced with the soccer team. “We’d finish games and I wouldn’t even know how many goals we scored because I would just be standing on the sideline thinking about what I needed to do for She’s the First,” said Brown.
Brown missed practice to attend the Google Zeitgeist conference in September. She was one of ten young people highlighted at the conference, where she was able to present her work with She’s the First in Nepal to leaders like Richard Branson, Larry Page, Chelsea Clinton, and Sandra Day O’Connor.
“The Google conference made me realize that my work in Nepal wasn’t just a fun summer trip – it’s what I’m supposed to do with the rest of my life. After Google, I knew that I had to stop playing soccer so I could spend more time on She’s the First.” said Brown. When she realized that her passions had changed, she met with her coach to discuss her future on the team.
“I couldn’t stand seeing her so stressed at such a young age and being torn about so many obligations and commitments,” said head coach Randy Waldrum. When Brown decided to leave the team in October, it was an amicable split. “I immediately let her know that she would always be a member of the soccer program and that she would always be a National Champion,” said Waldrum.
While she is happy with her decision, it was not an easy choice to make. “I know there are thousands of girls playing NCAA soccer who would kill to be on the Notre Dame team, and I felt weird just walking away from that,” said Brown. “It’s the first big decision I’ve ever really made,” she said.
The Athletics Department has had to modify some of the publications in which Brown is highlighted for her service to indicate that she is no longer on the team. “It’s really only mentioned in passing,” said Masters, “And that’s not the important part. The important part is that she is an ambassador for the University community, and that she was able to do that while incorporating her passion for sports.”
Brown’s commitment to community service made an impact on her team. In 2010, she received an award for completing 200 hours of community service during the school year, and by involving her teammates, she helped bring attention to a cause that they could all feel connected to. “The players can see firsthand how empowering it is to be a part of something that changes lives,” said Waldrum. “They see the hours Lindsay puts in and it makes them realize that they can do more,” he said.
Now that Brown’s calendar has opened up, she has had more time to dedicate to her studies and to her involvement with She’s the First, both at the national level and on campus. Brown’s tie-dye cupcakes have become the signature marketing campaign for the organization.
“It’s more than a cupcake, it’s a storytelling device. It’s eye-catching and different,” said Tammy Tibbetts, founder of She’s the First. “Furthermore, it speaks to the power of small actions. It’s just a cupcake, but those two dollars go towards changing a girl’s life. You never know what your small actions could accomplish,” Tibbetts said.
Besides her spotlight in the “What Would You Fight For” advertisement, Brown may also be an international representative for Notre Dame in the classroom. Brown is considering accepting the University’s endorsement for the Rhodes Scholarship to study political science at Oxford University. “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life,” said Brown. “It’s just funny because the people who usually get Rhodes Scholarships work on neuroscience or physics, but I bake cupcakes.”