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Building a Kinder and Braver World


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A braver, kinder world is possible, and this week’s guest is here to share how one organization is working with young people to bring that vision to life. Shadille Estepan is Senior Manager of Communications for Born This Way Foundation, which was founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Bissett Germanotta. 

In her role at Born This Way Foundation, Estepan supports the organization’s external communications efforts, including curating conversations and stories that help young people connect to tangible tools to better support their own and others' mental health. She has been with the Foundation since its inception, starting as a member of the inaugural Youth Advisory Board in 2012.

Check out this week’s episode to learn how you can help make the world a kinder and more beautiful place, starting with your own community.


From the beginning, the Born This Way Foundation has listened to the stories of young people and acted in response to their stated needs, rather than working as adults trying to solve problems for young people.

Lady Gaga and Cynthia Bissett Germanotta started the Foundation after thousands of interactions with young people while on tour. In those conversations, they heard over and over again that young people are seeking validation, support, and resources. The organization’s mission is to support “youth mental health and work with young people to build a kinder and braver world true to those conversations that helped spark the movement.”

With data showing that younger generations are experiencing a health crisis, this mission has become more important. But the Born This Way Foundation doesn’t work alone. Estepan notes that younger generations prioritize their mental health and are much more willing to talk about it than previous generations, so “while the stigma is heavy and the crisis is weighing in, it really feels hopeful because young people are driving the change.”


Born This Way Foundation works to give young people the tools and support they need to continue leading the charge. “[A] lot of what [the] Foundation does is work with young people to understand how we can best equip them to support that desire to better communicate about mental health and to foster mental wellness in their communities and beyond.”

One of their programs, Channel Kindness, brings in young storytellers to share their experiences of kindness and bravery within their communities, uplifting the positivity around them. Telling their stories provides a creative outlet, which is especially helpful since “our research shows that over 70% of young people use creative activities to help improve their mental health.” 

Most importantly, the stories are paired with actionable items for viewers. If, for example, you read about a young person who started a non-profit, you’ll be invited to learn how they did it or to find actionable ways to do the same thing in your own community. 

Another actionable tool was created through partnership with, a Canadian mental health charity: the Be There Certificate is a self-paced online mental health course available in English, French, and Spanish. The course even provides sample conversations about mental health issues, helping those who take the course to “feel better equipped and even much more confident to have and lean into those conversations.”


Estepan shares that one of Born This Way Foundation’s Advisory Board members, Keely, “shared that when we share our stories, magic happens. By opening up about our own experiences, we break down walls and show others that they are not alone.” 

Storytelling is essential to the Born This Way Foundation. Estepan herself got started with the organization because “I knew that I wanted to tell stories. I knew that I wanted those stories to be of impact, but I didn't quite know what that would look like.” Now she helps share the experiences of young people and brings to life the narratives of the Foundation’s programs and partnerships, continuing the work she started as a 19-year-old member of the Advisory Board.

Estepan encourages others to start making a difference at home. “[T]he reality is that we all have the opportunity to make an impact in our network, in our communities, and in our homes. I genuinely believe that any act of kindness that we do is an example for our communities. And so we have to start with ourselves and with the community that we have on hand. And then from there, I think you inspire others to follow suit.”

Tune in to the episode to learn more about Born This Way Foundation’s other essential partnerships, how they ensure diversity and inclusivity within the organization, and the amazing results of their programs and resources. 

Hoping to join the movement to build a kinder world? Earn your Be There Certificate to gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to safely support anyone who may be struggling with their mental health.

Listen to this episode to learn about...

[1:03] How Born This Way Foundation got started
[2:30] How young people are leading the charge against the mental health crisis
[3:23] How Channel Kindness promotes the power of storytelling and compassion
[5:14] The Be There Certificate as a tool for talking about mental health
[10:49] The power of organizations coming together
[12:41] Born This Way Foundation’s partnership with the Cotton On Foundation
[14:27] How Estepan got started with the Born This Way Foundation
[17:33] How we can all make a difference in our communities
[20:20] The amazing impact of the Born This Way Foundation
[23:57] Diversity and inclusivity at the Born This Way Foundation

Check out the Members Only episode to hear how Estepan’s education impacted her career and how she strives to be a lifelong learner on the job.