I’ll share my most important one. It is important to admit when you do not know something. Sometimes founders find themselves in this position where they feel that they have to know everything…that is why people or organizations are supporting their work because of their competence.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christie Garton.
Christie Garton is an award-winning social entrepreneur and founder of the 1,000 Dreams Fund (1DF), a national non-profit organization that supports the dreams of talented young women in need with funding, mentorship and more. Christie has made it her life’s mission to open as many doors as possible for young women through the 1,000 Dreams Fund. A graduate of the University of Kansas with a double degree in Business Administration and French, Christie also holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. While in college, Christie was chosen as a one of 20 “best and brightest” college students by USA Today and was a finalist for the Glamour “Top 10 College Women” award.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have long been committed to making a difference through my work, starting with my first non-profit that I launched in college called Music Mentors which matches college musicians with under-resourced youth for private music lessons. The program still exists today at my alma mater. This experience opened my eyes to the importance and fulfillment that can be obtained by having a deeper purpose in life. After law school, I became committed to the advancement of women in school and the workplace after witnessing a lack of role models and workplace mentors for myself and peers. 1,000 Dreams Fund and its mission of supporting women directly with funding and mentorship (and more) truly grew out of the very resources I often lacked access to during my educational and career journey.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
We hosted an International Women’s Day event in 2018 with one of our partners HARMAN (a Samsung Company0, which we run an annual scholarship program for women in S.T.E.A.M. (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) each year called the New Face of Tech, to celebrate women in tech. It was an inspiring evening, featuring a panel of senior-level women in tech alongside an up-and-coming young woman in tech…one of our New Face of Tech Scholarship winners who is pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering. Also on the panel was the CEO of HARMAN at the time, Dinesh Paliwal. Dinesh was so inspired by our student and our work that he stood up at the end of the event and announced that he and his wife ILA would be making a personal commitment to supporting our work. I was so surprised — and grateful — that I started to cry! As founder of a non-profit, you will have these moments that — despite the struggles and challenges you face in starting something from nothing — you finally eel that your work is resonating and making the difference you hope to achieve. That event, and Dinesh and ILA’s commitment, which has grown into the “Paliwal Club of 100” — two scholarship funds for women in STEAM and music (https://1000dreamsfund.org/paliwal-club-of-100/) — in partnership with the ILA and Dinesh Paliwal Foundation, was one of those moments that has helped to propel me and the organization forward.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Not necessarily funny, but young organizations can be constantly challenged to find the right people and outside support for their work. I will say that recruitment for personnel needs is a constant focus, and I have learned much by a few mistakes on personnel decisions in the beginning. Luckily, we have a wonderful, and very lean team, dedicated to our mission and work.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We intend to close critical resource gaps for women students wherever they may exist — whether that be funding for needs that often go unfunded by traditional scholarship funds or providing a well-matched mentor to a student through our MentorHER Initiative (https://1000dreamsfund.org/programs/mentorher-initiative/) who can help guide and respond to hyper-topical questions she might have about her educational or professional journey.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We have so many stories thanks to the incredibly personal stories we share of each and every young woman we have funded since I launched the organization in 2016. You can visit out website at 1000dreamsfund.org and read these stories under each program name. My personal favorite is the story of high school student Aria who was a part of our Project: Girls On the Rise (https://1000dreamsfund.org/programs/project-girls-on-the-rise/) program which provides 1,000 dollars scholarship and support to high school women nationwide in partnership with local non-profits for critical college-bound costs like fees for test prep courses or materials, laptops or tech devices that help with the college search and application process, in- or out-of-state college visit, and so much more. This young lady used her 1,000 dollars scholarship to take an out-of-state college visit with her mother from Kansas City, Mo. to Virginia where she visited several schools in the region. She visited an HBCU in Southern Virginia that was so impressed with her background that they offered her a full-ride scholarship. She accepted their offer and is now a student at the school. Aria and her mother shared that this never would have happened if she hadn’t had the chance to meet the admissions officer in person. Aria’s story represents everything that 1DF is about — that a little can go a long way for a talented student in need, opening doors to even further success.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Lower the costs of higher education! College is cost-prohibitive for many students (even those who come from a better-resourced socio-economic situation), and there are not enough scholarships to support those who truly deserve and need them.
Also politicians, community and business leaders need to formulate more apprenticeship opportunities (and other non-traditional experiential learning opportunities) for American students so that they can learn on-the-job and while in school to help them quickly advance into the working world, supporting our economy and reducing the amount of time they many need for school — and its overall price tag!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Being a leader is being willing to do the hard work towards fulfilling a need in society– the work that may not necessarily win the accolades or praise.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I’ll share my most important one. It is important to admit when you do not know something. Sometimes founders find themselves in this position where they feel that they have to know everything…that is why people or organizations are supporting their work because of their competence. The faster you can learn to ask for help when you don’t know something, the faster your organization will grow. My Board of Directors have been important to our advancement, filling in the skill and experience gaps where they exist. I am thankful to have realized the importance of a having good board fairly early in the founding of 1DF — but it’s still taken time to effectively put them to action. We formulated board committees over a year ago, and I can say that my life has gotten a whole lot less stressful as I’ve been able to share some of the work with my talented board members.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I truly believe our MentorHER Initiative, which provides a one-time, 1:1, 60 minute mentor sessions to our students, has the power to become a movement — that ever young woman can and should be mentored by someone who holds the career that she aspires to one day. My dream is for this program to spark inspire a movement where every professional commits at least one hour of their time to mentoring at least one student…and this movement, and that the women we serve eventually find themselves in the same position where they can donate an hour of their time, paying it forward. And the cycle continues onward and grows to serve both women and men.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I had a poster on my wall in my childhood bedroom, featuring the incredible Judith Jamison — artistic director emerita of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She was in a strikingly powerful pose and beneath her was the quote: “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I remembering staring at this poster while in bed before nodding off to sleep, contemplating what it meant to my life. I believe 1DF grew from the moments I shared with Judith while in my bedroom, dreaming about all of life’s possibilities.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Melinda French Gates
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow 1,000 Dreams Fund @1000dreamsfund on all major social media sites, including: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!