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March 02, 2016

Student group fueled by passion for education

Tarik Cristen
Tarik Cristen

Tarik Cristen ’16 isn’t your typical Rochester student. He attended three high schools in two states, repeated his sophomore year, and didn’t take his SATs until his senior year. But he wanted an education beyond high school and worked hard to get it.

Cristen knows the value of an education. And he wants to give back—whether it’s to the sophomore he has mentored from a 1.0 GPA his first semester to a current 2.9 GPA, or the young girls he’ll never meet in third-world nations across the globe.

Cristen, a senior from Queens, New York, majoring in financial economics, is cofounder of the University’s She’s The First chapter. She’s The First is a nonprofit national organization that raises money for girls from low-income countries who want an education—empowering them to be the first in their family to receive an education. So far, the organization has helped fund the education of 647 girls in 11 countries.

“The reason I’m so passionate is because we are targeting a niche in a gap that no one else is targeting,” Cristen says. “This isn’t a feminist movement. This is about education, and it’s something everyone can get behind.”

University Trustee Gwen Greene ’65, who serves as chair of the board for the national chapter of She’s the First, met Cristen two years ago at a campus panel discussion on landing a job in finance.  “I liked him right away,” Greene says. “Here was this sophomore—he didn’t even have his own computer, but he was still there. He wanted to learn.”

The University’s She’s The First chapter, which was formally recognized in October, began February as the 15th highest-grossing chapter for fundraising out of 193 chapters, having raised $1,200 at its Bake a Change fundraiser. The money will go toward the funding of educations for students ranging in age from 5 to 16 from India, Nepal, Peru, and Uganda.

“I’m dazzled by what Tarik has done,” Greene says. “He’s compassionate. He gives back. And he’s competitive. He wants to do better than other chapters. He has a fire in his belly.”

In addition to Cristen, founding members of the Rochester chapter include sophomores Prince Abraham, Laura Cowie-Haskell, Claire Dickerson, Aadharsh Duraiswamy, Lily Guo, Anisha Khosla, Anna Kopp, Leah Nason, and C.J. Van Huben.

She’s The First will host a “Sweat for SFT” event this semester in which they will teach Krav Maga, a form of self-defense, to raise money. The group also has partnered with the Refugee Student Alliance to host tutoring for refugees (from grammar school to college) each Saturday in Carlson Library.

Learn more about She’s The First at Shesthefirst.org.

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