Christie Garton is the big sister you wish you had. The 1,000 Dreams Fund founder has been turning goals into accomplishments since she was a teenager, landing an internship in Paris at Glamour and an invite to the White House – before she even received her degree! Now the author of the U Chic college guidebooks and the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, Christie continues dedicating her life to helping young women reach their absolute highest potential.
In high school and college, it’s easy to get caught up in friend drama and boy troubles. How did you stay focused on your goals?
College is all about finding that balance between academics, a social life, and extra activities you care about. For me, by focusing on my goals and building a schedule to support them, I didn’t have time for any drama. By staying true to who I was, I made friends and dated guys that shared common goals. I just didn’t have to worry about the drama because it wasn’t there in any of those relationships.
What’s one of your proudest college accomplishments?
During college, I launched Music Mentors – a non-profit that recruited college musicians to provide free private music lessons to children who couldn’t afford them. In 2000, we received and accepted an invitation to perform at the White House after I wrote a letter to President Clinton about the group!
Your U Chic college guidebook for young women is like a bible for getting through college. Who did you turn to for advice when you were in college?
I came up with the idea after discovering a lack of resources specifically for women in college and graduate school. I didn’t have an older sister to whom I could go to figure things out. Luckily, there were older girlfriends from high school who gave me advice on those college-years challenges. Our model with U Chic is to feature real advice from real girls who are in college or are recent grads. Who better to share advice than those who’ve just been there and done it?
Christie Garton (and the UChic College Girls’ Guide!) at the Milken Institute Global Conference, April 2015
While you were in college, you not only interned at Glamour, but did it in Paris! How did that come about?
It was all about leveraging the network I had started building in college. After a college advisor encouraged me to apply, I went out on a limb and applied to be one of Glamour’s annual “Top College Women” honorees. I had no expectation of being selected, but I went ahead and applied, and ended up being one of their finalists! I didn’t win the honor, but I got to know a Glamour team member, and we stayed in touch. So when I received a scholarship for a year of study in Paris, I reached out to see whether they had any internship opportunities there – and they did! You’ve never heard someone scream as loud as I did after the call!
It can be really scary to move from a small hometown to a big city. What tips do you have for a girl who’s picking up and moving to DC, or Manhattan, or any other unfamiliar place to pursue her dreams?
Seek out friends or contacts in the area – knowing someone makes the transition easier. If you don’t, look for housing on nearby college campuses. Many schools have summer programs, opening their housing to non-students. It’s a budget-friendly option, and you’ll be living and interacting with other students.
What do you believe are some of the biggest strengths of millennials?
I think a lot of my natural instincts – a desire to make an impact and an interest in entrepreneurship – are ones you find consistently among members of my generation and Gen Z. We want to find solutions to the challenges we’re seeing in our communities.
Christie Garton and some amazing young women at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, August 2016
Who are some women you’ve always admired – and ones you’ve only recently started to love?
I love successful women who’ve built their careers in the media, like Cathie Black, Arianna Huffington, and Tina Brown. Entrepreneurs like Kate Spade, Tory Burch and the founders of BirchBox are inspiring too, as is Hillary Clinton’s tenacity in politics.
1,000 Dreams Fund has already helped many girls get a few steps closer to their dreams. Can you describe a favorite memory you’ve had so far while running this organization?
Wow, there are so many. My favorite is the day we taped a video that became our brand story. Each girl featured in the video is real, and their stories are real. I’m thrilled that we funded every single one of them, and we’re committed to reaching our goal of 1,000 – and more!
Christie Garton at Make48 in Kansas City, MO, April 17, 2015
What are some goals you’re still looking forward to accomplishing?
My goal is to see the 1,000 Dreams Fund continue to grow indefinitely, impacting the lives of these amazing young women. I can’t wait to follow up with them in a few years to see what exciting things they’ve been able to do. I want the 1,000 Dreams Fund to be there when my 3-year-old daughter Georgia is on her way to college. That is my greatest dream.
Christie Garton is living her dreams!
Interview conducted by Jennifer Kline, 1,000 Dreams Fund contributor