Guest blogger Kelly Henkins is a music journalist and blogger – but she’s also a lifelong scout. At the end of 2012, she was kind enough to share the first part of a beautiful and personal perspective on how scouting has impacted her life. I promised part 2 early this year, and while I was a bit behind the 8-ball on that, at least it’s here before spring starts!
So go grab a glass of milk and a few Girl Scout cookies (Kelly’s current favorite? Lemon Pastry Cremes), and enjoy. Learn more about how you can follow Kelly at the bottom of this post…
Changing schools is hard any time. When you move after a school year has already established, especially during the peer pressure years of about sixth grade on up, other issues compound the problems of an already difficult part of growing up.
I had always been a good student and had lots of friends in grade school. But everything changed when I was forced to switch schools at the beginning of seventh grade. We moved from a small town in the Colorado foothills to a larger district in the plains. Ethnic demographics changed drastically. The area was populated with a large number of sharecroppers. Their children moved around a lot as a result, changing schools, and the friendships they forged were primarily with others on the circuit. They grew up from day one of kindergarten fighting for position–something I had never faced before.
I didn’t know how to cope, and as a result I was bullied. Big Time.
I formed a silent shell. I didn’t speak up in class for fear of ridicule… and later, I’d get beat up before I could make it to the bus. My dad didn’t help. He believed that only reading, writing and math were all that should be taught in school, and he prevented me from joining clubs or even taking part in some class activities. If classmates were not ostracizing me, my own dad filled the bill.
Spring ahead to 1987, and my daughter is interested in being a Brownie. Why? Because her friends were signing up. Having been forbidden to participate in school activities myself, I decided early on that if Sue wanted to be a part of something, I would do everything possible to see she was able. My husband and I even bought our first home within walking distance of school so logistics would never be an issue.
The big catch? That Brownie troop needed a leader.
In Part 1 of my post last December, I talked about the advice I received from my sister on what being a leader would encompass. And I found out first-hand when I was invited by the Council to participate in a committee of eight. I don’t even remember now what it was. What I do remember was a moderator who realized that I wanted to contribute to the discussion and encouraged me to do so.
I cautiously voiced my opinion and you know what happened? No one laughed. No one accosted me in the parking lot afterwards. Instead, I received a call from the Council Director the next day thanking me for my input and asking if I would I lead our area group.
Me? Lead? Having fun with the girls was one thing. But to interact as an equal with my own peers? Perish the thought!
From that one moment of morphing out of my comfort zone, I went on to lead other projects with Girl Scouts–within my own troops, within the local Council and at the National level. I was a troop leader for Daisy Girl Scouts all the way through the chain to Seniors for over eighteen years. I served as Service Unit Coordinator, Unit Cookie Chair, Cookie Task force and a School Coordinator.
I found my leadership abilities–and my confidence–grow with each new experience. I also became a trainer, teaching other leaders how to be the best they could be for their girls, even if they didn’t think they could. My way of Paying It Forward.
Aside from being a leader to over 200 girls in that time, one of my most rewarding accomplishments was being asked by the Council to help coordinate a project for Girl Scout National on Violence Intervention. We were one of only nine councils nationwide selected to bring awareness to appropriate ways to handle violence–including bullying. I found it the most rewarding because it brought my life full-circle. If a program like VIP had been available when I was in school, would my life have been different?
Or maybe the better question is: would I want it to have been different? In some ways, yes. But I am also a strong believer that we go through things for a reason. Because of my life experiences I’ve learned to speak up. I’ve learned that the worst someone can say is no, and I’ve learned that no matter what anyone else thinks… I have a right to speak my opinion. I have Girl Scouts to thank for that belief.
Laugh at me if you will, but I’m proud of where my journey has brought me so far and to me. That’s all that matters.
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