I recently started a project, a photo collage for the last 15 years of Girls Inc. As I looked through the photos of girls from 2001, I realized that I could have been one of those girls. The girls reminded me of my 2001, 13-year-old self. I had high hopes and was ready to take on the world.
Then I had to change schools. And with the change in schools, I experienced something that had not happened to me before. I started being bullied. Life changed a lot for me that year. After constantly hearing about being overweight, and teased for eating a cookie at lunch, and being called pale and ugly, my personality changed. I was no longer the girl who was ready to take on the world.
School had always been a safe place for me. I loved learning about anything and everything. School became stressful and no longer fun. I was worried when I got on the bus in the morning, and sad and frustrated when I got off the bus in the afternoon. I even stopped using my social messaging accounts for fear that bullying would start there, too.
I know I’m not alone. I know this happens to girls every day. And luckily for those girls in the photos I looked through, they had Girls Inc. to support them. They had Girls Inc. to help them resolve conflicts, to learn how to deal with bullying, and to remind them that they had value beyond their looks. They had Girls Inc. to encourage them to do well in school, to find positive role models, and to explore education choices.
I could have used that encouragement and that inspiration. I needed someone to remind me that I was strong, smart, and bold. Too many girls like my younger self don’t have that reassurance. Too many girls like my younger self don’t feel strong, smart, and bold, because we let others diminish our value. So as a young professional at my Girls Inc. desk, I know how important it is that I keep advocating for girls. I know how important Girls Inc. is, because I know what it is like to grow up without it. I am proud to celebrate the work we do every day, because I know we are making a difference for girls.