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Cynthia Germanotta

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Introducing the Born This Way Foundation

Posted: 02/29/2012 1:45 pm

Today is a special day for my daughter and I as we share with everyone something we've been working on for almost a year and have been talking about as mother and daughter for much longer.

As a family, we always emphasized giving back to society and instilled that value in our children. And as my daughter's career took off and she developed more and more reach, we started having serious conversations about ways to give back. She's always been very tuned in to youth culture. Growing up she faced many struggles because of her individuality, and, as a result, often experienced meanness and cruelty. She's talked very publicly about these and other struggles in a real and personal way and people have responded to that message. As her career unfolded, her message continued to resonate with more and more youth, and it was this movement that then led to the creation of a foundation. The natural progression was to put together an infrastructure to address what was already near and dear to both of our hearts.

Our goal is to do our part to help make the world a "kinder & braver" place by empowering and inspiring youth around the country, and hopefully others who want to stand up for kindness, acceptance and love. We're calling it the Born This Way Foundation, and from the interest and excitement we've received thus far, it's starting to feel like we may have tapped into something special.

If there's anything we've learned from our months and months of due diligence and meeting with experts in the youth empowering, anti-bullying, mentoring, wellness, digital-learning and advocacy domains, it is that there is a tremendous amount of wonderful work that's been done long before we ever came onto the scene and we salute that work. It's work from the countless and tireless champions in the trenches of academic research, policy making or direct care. Or the front-line professionals who work with youth who feel like they don't belong, or who staff the crisis hotlines or who take the time after-hours at school to help the adolescent who is at their wit's end, believing there's no one who cares about them.

It's due to this passion -- this forest fire of determination in our bellies ignited by the endless stories that fans write -- that we knew we had to step up and do our part in moving the needle further and faster in the advocacy and bravery domains. Yes, we'll be focusing a lot of our efforts on anti-bullying in the early stages, but the foundation's overall mission is "empowering youth & inspiring bravery." We believe if young people felt empowered to make a difference and experienced the bravery of self-confidence and of knowing they can achieve great things, not only would we address the issue of bullying, but we would also lay the tracks for transformative change that fosters the ultimate goal of a kinder and braver world.

To achieve these ambitious aspirations, we've sought the counsel of philanthropy leaders such as Connie Yowell of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Dr. Bob Ross of The California Endowment and our research partners at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, who have been invaluable friends and colleagues in this journey. But even more important are the youth themselves whose stories of hope keep us inspired to do everything we can. So our foundation and our partners are ready to get out there and roll up our sleeves in the months and years to come. We're going to do our best to help youth feel safe and accepted, so that they have the skills to effect change and recognize opportunities in their communities where they can make a difference.

We look forward to this exciting journey and even bigger challenges, and hope you'll consider joining us and becoming part of the movement at www.BornThisWayFoundation.org.

Watch the Born This Way Foundation launch event live stream today (Wednesday, February 29) at 4:00 p.m. EST.