Hands shaking. Eyes shifting. Words breaking.
I couldn’t help but cringe as my best friend struggled to give a presentation to our 5th grade class.
This was history class and the project assigned us each a different state to report on. She had New York. From her nervous habits, she could’ve been talking about the Land of Make Believe for all I knew. The only noticeable aspect was how uncomfortable she looked.
This was 5th grade. As a junior in high school, I’ve ultimately witnessed countless experiences like this. As a performer ranging from dancing in tutus at 5 to singing blues at 17, I’ve never had an issue speaking, or doing anything, in front of a group. However, I realize this isn’t the case for most.
When pondering what to do for my Girl Scout Gold Award, an 80-hour service project making a positive impact on one’s community, I was immediately brought back to my 5th grade experience. If only my friend had been told how to compose herself, how to speak confidently, or simply how to not seem nervous, her experience would have been stellar.
Realizing middle school was the perfect age to instill leadership skills to girls, given that they are just discovering who they are, I was set on hosting classes: One on public speaking, and one on making effective, aesthetically pleasing posters. While I was eventually able to find success with this project, there were a number of setbacks.
The first was approval from the town. One would think a town council would wholeheartedly support a teen’s effort to make a difference in her community. In fact, with the motto, “shaping girls to be the leaders of tomorrow” it seemed nearly impossible to turn down. However, I was turned down, the excuse being insurance and liability.
I didn’t give up.
I was informed of another town organization, the Municipal Alliance, whose mission was to lead youth in the right direction for life. Their goal and my programs fit together hand in hand. After gaining approval, I was able to host two week-long programs on public speaking and presenting. The group of 10-12 girls would come in cold. In fact, on the first day every participant had to give an impromptu speech in front of the group.
As the girls got more comfortable over the course of the four days, it was amazing to see them go from uncertain to unstoppable in their public speaking. I knew I had shaped them into confident young women for any leadership endeavors they would encounter. On the last day of both programs, parents were invited to see their daughters speak, and/or view the projects displayed.
The entire process was incredibly rewarding. In fact, one of the girls I coached over the summer won her Student Council election; it was great to know that my mentoring guided her through her election speech. Being awarded the Dove Right On Girls Scholarship for my work was another exciting bonus.
One would think after such an eventful summer, I would sit back and be happy with my impact. However, it’s difficult for me to think of the last time I was satisfied with stopping. I plan to take my program to the Newark, where I hope to mentor more children to be the leaders of tomorrow.
The future is mine to shape. If I can help it, the next generation will follow in my footsteps. I’m eager to guide them in the right direction.
This way, they can feel as unstoppable as I do when speaking before a group.By Anastasia BergeronJunior at Morristown High School