Award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien has reported on stories on all corners of the globe, anchored broadcasts on networks such as CNN, HBO and MSNBC and now serves as CEO and executive producer of her own production company, Starfish Media Group. Now she wants to help young women find success, too.
O'Brien also runs the Starfish Foundation which provides young minority women from low-income families the financial support and mentorship to get to and through college.
Earlier this month, she celebrated the 6th annual Starfish Foundation Gala, a night spent honoring the work of the foundation's scholars and donors over the past year. O'Brien talked to CBS News about her work and foundation.
Congratulations on celebrating your sixth gala. How much planning goes into putting this night together?
Well, it really is a celebration. As soon as one gala finishes, we take one day off, then get started on the next. The night is not just about the program, but it's about mentoring. At the core of the Starfish Foundation is mentoring. We take thousands of young girls and help connect them to women. The theme for this year is partnering. We will celebrate the helpful corporations who have committed lots of time to these girls. The night's celebration is really about highlighting the girls.
Since starting the foundation, has there been anything you were you surprised by or something you unexpectedly learned?
I had to learn the process young women need to go and start a career. Yes, they need money, but even more than that they need support. Young women are not successful if they are not mentored. That could mean a babysitter or even a tutor to help get them through.
I treat the girls like how I would my family. I make sure my kids have what they need when they leave the house each day. It's the same for the girls in the foundation. If that means give them a shoulder to cry on, someone to celebrate with when things go well, push them and lay out opportunities in their way -- I've really looked at it more as guiding them. You have to have a more layered people approach in order to teach them.
As you continue to teach and learn from these girls, are there things you wish someone had told you early on in your career?
Oh man, how much time do you have? There's so much! I didn't understand that to be successful is not just to do your job. There are necessary skills you need to be good at. You need to know how to deal with people. There are so many unwritten rules of an office I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. It also has to be about the partnerships you make. You need someone to be able to keep you on track, and help you get to what it is you want to get to. I had to learn that overtime, but once I figured it out, it made me more flexible.
We watched Hillary Clinton make history recently as she became the first woman to head a major party's ticket. What has it been like for you to watch this election up until this moment?
Let me tell you. My 14-year-old daughter was surprised back in 2009 when I told her Obama was the first black president ever. It's remarkable to see how the generation of young people today are living in a completely different world than we did. Telling someone you can do anything is one thing, but there is so much power when you see you really can be anything.