‘Shine On’: New Canaan Mother-Daughter Found Scholarship Program at LiveGirl


New Canaan's O'Hare family, L-R: Claire, Jack, Ellie, Libby and Dick.

Libby O’Hare, a 2016 New Canaan High School graduate, truly discovered local nonprofit organization LiveGirl through her mother, Claire. 

Owner of her own fine handmade jewelry business based in New Canaan, Claire O’Hare had sponsored one of the organization’s annual “Impact Scholarships” through the business. And even after she sold the company, Claire O’Hare continued to support the scholarship program. Then last year, inspired by the work of LiveGirl and the young women involved in the organization, Claire O’Hare brought her older daughter in to learn more about it.

For Libby O’Hare, who lives and works in New York City for Meta, what followed made an indelible impression. She attended a LiveGirl Impact Scholarship awards event with a friend and fellow Bucknell University graduate. 

“And then when my mom left the awards ceremony and she was like, ‘I want to do more and I want to do this together,’ it was just a perfect opportunity to tap into my network and ask if they wanted to be involved,” Libby O’Hare recalled. “And it just shaped really organically.”

What they developed—working with LiveGirl founder, CEO and Chairwoman Sheri West— was the “Shine On Women’s Giving Circle.” Led by an executive committee headed by Libby O’Hare and populated with her own friends from New Canaan and college, the Giving Circle raises funds for scholarships that support talented and historically underrepresented young women. Following an initial “Shine On Impact Scholarship” last year, the program already has expanded thanks to the O’Hares’ work and this year will award $10,000 in scholarships to five deserving young women.

“I’m really excited,” Libby O’Hare said. “It’s been an unbelievable journey so far, and we’ve only been at it for seven to nine months. Having this be our first year, getting our feet on the ground and learning the ins and outs of this whole process, it’s been very exciting and interesting to learn more and work directly with a nonprofit. I haven’t had the experience of working with a nonprofit before. This is my first one. So it’s been awesome.”

The scholarships are available to high school and college women in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The deadline to apply is May 10 (the application can be found here).

The Shine On program is aligned with LiveGirl’s mission, which West defined as “to equip the next generation of diverse female leaders with the skills, mentors, role models and access to thrive.”

“These scholarships economically empower individuals and provide them with financial support for education and career goals,” West said. “This program also identifies leadership exemplars who have made a positive impact in their community, thereby encouraging all girls to pursue leadership roles. We serve girls from grade five through college. Because of Shine On, a middle schooler can see someone who looks like them excelling and thus be inspired to aim high.”

Founded by West in 2014, LiveGirl has reached more than 14,000 girls through its wide range of programs, such as Confidence Club, mentoring and networking, summer camp, Leadership Council, summits, internships and special events. Under West’s vision and leadership, LiveGirl has fostered a community of girls and women that befriend, advise, mentor and otherwise support one another.

Asked about the reach of the Shine On Impact Scholarships, West said, “In addition to the scholarship funds, our Shine On scholars are surrounded with professional mentors—including myself—internship opportunities through SHE WORKS, and networking. In essence, we will surround our Shine On Scholars with the vital network of support that they need to thrive. By providing deserving, underrepresented women with both financial and experiential backing, we aim to build a more inclusive future where all women have the opportunity to lead and succeed.”

Claire O’Hare said her major contribution to Shine On was working with West to get the program started and then fundraising for it and bringing in her daughter.

“The reason why we thought of extending it to Libby and her friends—she has an executive committee and there’s like six or eight of them on the committee with her—is because these young women out of New Canaan and Rye and Greenwich High Schools, they’re super, super, super hard workers and they’ve done well in school and they’re doing great in their jobs and I thought the connection to these young women who are coming out of LiveGirl should be with Libby and her cohort of folks and friends,” Claire O’Hare said. “That’s where people can really shine, if there’s a young woman who’s like, ‘Gosh, I’d really love to know how to interview for a job’ and reached out to Libby and her friends and made the connection there. That’s where I think the giving circle is really different, because it’s not just me and Sheri doing it and saying ‘We’re going to raise some money and get some scholarships out.’ It’s getting 25-year-olds involved and getting them involved with these young women. That’s where the magic is.”

Asked what she’s learned since working on Shine On, Libby O’Hare noted that “there are difficulties to fundraising and publicity and how much of a lift it takes for awareness around this application.”

“Sheri has done such a great job since LiveGirl started in connecting more than 14,000 women, and now we want to tap into our networks and reach more people,” she said.

“It’s hard work and it takes a lot,” Libby O’Hare said. “It takes a lot of dedication. But we have a shared purpose and a vision and a goal. It makes everything a lot easier.”

Asked about the long-term vision for Shine On, Libby O’Hare said, “Our vision is to continue to grow from year one, continue to grow both from a fundraising standpoint and to grow the number of women involved in the Shine On Giving Circle, and therefore grow the Shine On recipients.”

For Claire O’Hare, one key to the future of Shine On is ensuring that young women continue to help each other.

“I have a younger daughter and I can’t wait until Libby passes the torch to Ellie when she’s 25,” she said. “The closer we can keep it to young women supporting young women, that’s what is going to make Shine On really different.”

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