A 2009 graduate of the School of Communication is being considered for a 2013 CNN Heroes Award for her work in helping refugee girls adjust to their new lives in the United States.
Blair Brettschneider, 24, was nominated for her work as founder and executive director of GirlForward. The nonprofit organization serves girls ages 12-21 who have been resettled in Chicago from war-torn countries around the world. Its aim is to help them build new lives for themselves and their families.
“The idea for GirlForward came to be when I moved to Chicago,” said Brettschneider, who majored in journalism and was the managing editor of Distraction magazine. “I got a job working at a refugee resettlement agency” that helped provide housing, job placement and basic English classes to refugee families.
She said her organization’s name fits its mission: “For the name, I was just trying to think of something straightforward, easy to remember for the girls and catchy. Plus, the girls are moving forward in their lives here in the U.S.”
Brettschneider has long had an interest in helping others. She was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and a volunteer at American Read.
Now two years old, GirlForward serves more than 50 refugee girls with individual mentorship, educational programs and leadership opportunities.
“All of the girls in the program are in the country legally,” Brettschneider said. “Most arrived with their families through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”
She also has a vision of expanding the organization in a few years to states like California, Texas and Florida, where there are large refugee populations.
Nominated by her mother, Julie Goddard, Brettschneider was thrilled when she recently received a call from CNN about her selection as one of the 25 semifinalists for the award, which is dedicated to “everyday people changing the world.” The Top 10 Heroes will be announced on Oct. 10 and will take part in a televised award ceremony in November.
One of Brettschneider’s UM mentors takes pride in her accomplishments since graduating.
“This is a great recognition for someone who does a lot of hard work and shows how determined graduates are to help others,” said School of Communication Professor Randy Stano, who is also advisor to Distraction magazine. “I congratulate her and hope she moves on to the finals.”
This story was originally written for The Miami Hurricane by Eddie Sanchez.