Wars, natural disasters, dirty politicians. Journalist Soledad O’Brien has reported on all sorts of world affairs. But the story that’s made the biggest impact? The one where she gets to send young women in need to school.
When O’Brien spoke at the Spelman College graduation ceremony earlier this year, it wasn’t just a commencement speech. It was truly personal. Among those graduating was Terri Segue (pictured below), one of the 28 young women O’Brien has helped with educational scholarships since 2006. “I was speaking to a whole class, but it felt like I was speaking to one of my children about to go off into the world,” says O’Brien, who with her husband founded the Soledad O’Brien and Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation, a charity that provides funds and resources for up to 25 students. But O’Brien, who has four children (Sofia, 13, Cecilia, 12, and twins Charles and Jackson, 10), is much more than just a financial source for her Starfish Scholars—she’s also their friend.
So what impresses you in a candidate?
Grit and determination. We look for girls who are tough and hop over obstacles—survivors who in spite of having no financial resources maintain good grades.
Your scholars have been successful: So far, seven have completed degrees, one is in law school, and one is working on her Ph.D. What’s next?
We want to remain small, and selective with our scholarships, but we’ll scale up in other ways—for the website I’d like to create a video library that highlights careers for women. It will be a way for girls to see jobs that align with their interests. We want to present choices and expand their opportunities: A girl with a math degree can be a math teacher, but she could also go into finance.
OK, is it true you also help your Starfish Scholars move into their dorm rooms?
Yes! I’ll eyeball a place and say, “You need a blanket, a better pillow, and obviously a rug and a lamp. Let’s go to Target.” I’m good at it.
Do Your Part!
1. Donate at obrienraymondfoundation.com.
2. Nominate a scholar candidate by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Participate by attending one of the foundation’s annual PowHERful summits. These conferences focus on female empowerment through education and are free. Email email@example.com.
For the full story on Soledad O’Brien, pick up the August issue of InStyle, available on newsstands and for digital download now.