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Girl Scouts Share Their Stories in Becoming Me Essay Contest


Girl Scouts partnered with Penguin Random House and Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama on a Becoming Me program series that encourages girls to unlock the power of their unique story and embark on a journey to become their best selves.

We invited girls in 4-12th grade to enter a Becoming Me Essay Contest! Girls used their voices and shared their stories: triumphs, hardships and how they’ve grown.

Congratulations to winners Junior Abby Wiitanen and Cadette Arie Jackson! Read their essays in the latest issue of Juliette’s Gazette magazine.

Because all the girls told heart-felt and powerful stories, we want to share the runners-up and honorable mention essays with you. Enjoy!

Juniors: Second-Place Winner
By Emani Washington

I’ve been running track for about four years now. I started in a program called Little Green Track Club when I was 6 years old. It was easy for me because I always won. My last year there, I found out that it only goes on to age group 8 and 9 years old. So, the next year, I did not participate because there were no higher age groups. At the end of that year, my mom and dad signed me up for a 100- and 200-meter dash for the Junior Husker meet at the Bob Devaney Center.

While we were there, a coach from another team came up to us and asked if I wanted to be on that team. I started to practice with them. I thought that was easy, but my first track meet on the new team was hard. I ran the 100, the 200 and competed in long jump. In my first 100 on this team, I could not stop getting nervous, and I was hard on myself.

More about me … I am helpful around the house when my parents are busy. I am kind and helpful to others, and I get good grades in school. I help my little brothers who are 2 and 5 years old get ready for their day. Some things I am still working on are cleaning my room.

I like the Becoming Me program that I watched with First Lady Michelle Obama because she inspired girls like me to be their best selves.

My first time in Girl Scouts was in my after-school program at Campbell Elementary School in Lincoln. It was fun! But now, I am in a regular troop! Some things I like about being in a regular troop is meeting new people and learning new things. Recently, I completed my first Journey, Agent of Change. It was fun and challenging. My Girl Scout sister Alexis and I made a video on YouTube for our Take Action project. We chose a video so the world can see it, not just a couple of people. In Girl Scouts, something we do is talk about the Girl Scout Promise. Our leaders help us be our best selves by helping us when we need help with something. We just started in this new troop in May, and I have earned nine fun patches and all three of the Agent of Change badges.

It is sometimes hard to be a part of all the Girl Scout activities because I travel and participate in sports a lot of the time, so my week is always busy. But most of the time, I can make activities, events, and meetings on Zoom.  

Being a part of Girl Scouts has made me more confident than I was before by being a leader, not a follower. They have helped me want to raise my hand more and answer questions, make more friends and to be a kind person.

In closing, Michelle Obama has impacted me to write this because she is confident and inspiring.

Oh, and back to track. I qualified for regionals in the 4X1 event for my age group. We made it to Nationals for the Junior Olympics! We are flying out Sunday, July 25, and coming back Thursday, July 29. I am filled with all types of emotions. I WILL be confident and be my best self! 

Juniors: Third-Place Winner
By Violet Lightner

I sometimes say I hate a lot of things. I don’t know how many times I mean it, but I do know one specific time where I meant everything I said mostly.

Just in case you don’t know, I would like to clear it up for you, adults can make horrible mistakes. Who would have thought that it would be a bad idea to rip me up from the best school ever to go to a new school where we start school earlier than everyone else and summer starts later. And three days a week you go to a thing called enrichment where you stay after school and add more to your plate. By the way I know moving to a new school isn’t the end of the world, especially if you can still see your friends, but it can sure change it, sometimes for the worst.

Admittedly I could have had a better attitude but the farther I got into the swing of things I knew the harder it would be to change my attitude. All I could do was point out what was wrong with the school and dramatize how unhappy I was until my parents cracked and let me go back to my old school.

Before I get too far into this thrilling tale, I should probably explain what is going on. My brother’s friend’s mom found this school that does different things to make the students geniuses or whatever, and my brother wanted to be with his friend so off he went to the school. Turns out it was a great decision for him and even though he complained about it all the time, which could have been a hint to not go there, his younger sister (me) would still be sent off to this school. I of course was not happy about that I think my exact words were, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah.” Mature I know. Being the shy person that I was wasn’t going to help me at all.

School would have been a lot more fun if I had made a friend earlier on. The kids didn’t really seem like kids that would be fun to hang around. I wasn’t trying to judge people, but it felt like everyone was faking being mature which got under my skin. Still, I guess I can’t really expect everyone to act like me, not that I’m some perfect kid. I basically didn’t joke and didn’t disagree with anyone that I didn’t know well. I was kind like everyone’s go to person when they wanted to feel right. I found out that I let people push me around which caused me to, let’s put it this way, let myself have a personality around new people. That was one of the good things that happened there.

Nobody was rude to me, but I could tell that I was killing the vibe. I was like the little sister that always tagged along which I already was at my house. I just didn’t fit in which was a surprise since at my old school I practically had a whole group of friends. I was mad about that, but I couldn’t get mad just because other kids didn’t click with me. In my class I was always the odd one out. That wasn’t news, but if I had bothered to simply sit somewhere else at lunch, I would have found something different.

Since the first day of school, I sat in the same spot at lunch every day. The end of the table right next to the line to lunch with the “cool” kids because they probably couldn’t find a good way to ditch me. The next table over on the opposite side of the table sat a kid from a different class. She was maybe funny and sort of strange in the best way possible.

After I got used to how this school worked, I stopped asking if I could leave as much. That might have been because I was getting the same answer repeatedly though. Looking back, I know it wasn’t a bad school, it just wasn’t the right fit for me. I started to accept the fact that I probably wasn’t going back to my old school which didn’t bother me that much anymore. It wasn’t that I realized that the school I was at was perfect, I was just learning to be realistic.

Toward the end of the school year, I started rapid fire asking, “Can I go back to my old school?” and screaming “I want to go back to my old school!” I got pretty much the same response every time. “Just finish up the school year and then we will talk.” Which leads me to one of my favorite last days of school. It was boring because it was quarantine, and I just had to finish an assignment then, yay, summer. It was nice to be free of school for a while.

My parents let me go back to my old school. I’d rather not make it all dramatic because even though it felt amazing at the time it didn’t really affect me for a while since it was summer. I told all my friends including the girl I met that year. I didn’t really do it the best way, and I could tell she was sad, but she said she was happy that I was happy. Unfortunately, we sort of lost touch, but I still remember her and how supportive she was which made all the difference that school year.

That is why this story is about multiple things. Number one is that someone supportive and nice can come from unexpected places. Number two is that you know what is best for yourself so try to give yourself the best. Number three it is fine to go back to where you were. Sometimes you were already in the right spot.

If I ever take the time to look back on this experience later in life I might look back on it fondly but for now I’m just going to accept that it probably needed to happen in order to change me into the person I am today, and I think that is perfectly fine.

Cadettes: Second-Place Winner
By Isla Brassil

It had been a long day in the Boundary Water Canoe Area in Minnesota, paddling all the way from Williams Island to Adventure Lake and then to Disappointment Lake. I was on the last day of a canoe trip with my family. My two older brothers, Oliver and Benjamin, along with my parents and I were enjoying the outdoors, away from the internet-filled world.  

After finally arriving at Disappointment Lake, my family and I had a new task: find a campsite. Up ahead we spotted a nice island we planned to stay at. The wind was pushing the canoe off to the side making it hard to stay on track. As our two canoes slowly moved closer, we could see people already on shore. Even though I was tired from all the paddling I had done that day, I wasn’t ready to stop looking for a nice island to sleep on. Everybody kept paddling against the wind to the next campsite. But again, the spot was taken. We finally came up to an open island and got out of our canoes to look around.

The campsite wasn’t windy and had lots of trees to block the sun. You would think that would be a perfect spot, but that’s exactly what the mosquitoes thought too! We looked around but couldn’t find any better spot. Sometimes you have to deal with what you get and make the best of it. So, after getting the gear out of the canoe, we set up tents.

We set up a two-person tent for my mom and me, and a three-person tent for my dad and brothers. After setting up, I went fishing with Oliver and my dad. Out on the canoe it was quiet. I listened to the sounds of nature and the occasional reel as someone got bored and cast out again. Waiting for fish to bite takes lots of patience, and you don’t always know if something’s going to happen or if you will just be enjoying your surrounding sounds. We soon caught a few fish and decided to go cut them up. After we had pulled the boat onto the shore, we went to clean the fish.

While hanging around camp, somebody suddenly noticed there was only one canoe pulled up to the shore. The other canoe had floated away because of the wind! I quickly went to the shore of the island to see if I could see it. My brothers did the same while my parents got into the other canoe with a rope. At that moment, we were stuck with only one canoe. We wouldn’t be able to get back to the mainland. I didn’t know what we were going to do. A few minutes later, they luckily came back with the lost canoe tied to the one they were in. I was so relieved at the sight of two canoes. I don’t know what we would’ve done if we hadn’t found it.

We learned our lesson and pulled the canoe farther up to the shore. It was now time to start supper. We started heating up the water and frying up the fish. The fire restriction was on red so there wouldn’t be a campfire that night. I knew I was happy, sitting and eating with my family, talking about how the day had gone.

Later, after eating and cleaning we watched the water. Usually mosquitoes would come swarm around us during what we called mosquito hour. But tonight it never came because it was going to rain.  Everyone wanted to be in their tents before the rain or mosquitoes came. It soon became darker, and I heard from all the way on shore the plink plunk as raindrops hit the lake’s surface and moved closer. It was finally time to get in our tents and close our eyes.

That night the thunder was so loud, I felt I was sleeping right next to it. I huddled close to my mom the whole night, talking through the storm, waiting for it to pass. It was a moment in a tent that I enjoyed. Talking and listening to the loud thunder, I didn’t want it to end. But at the same time, I was hoping and hoping the storm would stop very soon.

Early the next morning, I opened my eyes and didn’t hear any rain. Then I saw tiny dots all over the top of my tent. I sat up to put on my glasses and saw hundreds of mosquitoes. Luckily, they were outside, but still under the rainfly. I packed my sleeping bag and pad quickly and wasn’t looking forward to getting outside because of all the mosquitoes. When I finally convinced myself to get out of the tent, I did it as fast as I could, trying not to let mosquitoes inside.

Mosquitoes swarmed around me. My dad had mosquito nets for our heads, and we wore long sleeves so we wouldn’t get bitten. Oliver’s pants had gotten a big rip, and he had to wear his swim trunks! I was very grateful I had long pants to wear. Everybody helped take down the tents and pack everything up to move to a different island that hopefully wasn’t as buggy.

We paddled out onto the water where there was a slight breeze to keep the mosquitoes away and finished swatting the ones that had followed us. Soon we saw some nice flat rocks along a forested island. We ate breakfast of milk and cereal, then headed back into the canoes.     

Paddling back, I realized how much I learned during our trip. To never give up, even when we couldn’t find a campsite. Or to have patience while fishing, not knowing if I’m going to catch anything. Also, I learned to stay calm if something goes wrong. When the canoe floated away, we were stuck there for a moment, but everyone stayed calm, and we could fix the problem.

I was brave during that thunderstorm. It was scary hearing the thunder so close and knowing I was sleeping beneath tall trees on a lake. I learned that I have to be okay with things that aren’t the best. All those mosquitoes were annoying, but I couldn’t do much about them because there were so many. I was closer to my family, and it was more exciting than sitting on my couch reading a book. I wanted to go back to our adventure as soon as we left.

Cadettes: Third-Place Winner
By Alexis Hawthorne

I would like to tell you about my story so far, my triumphs, hardships, and how I’ve grown. Let’s start with triumphs. I have done a lot of hobbies but the piano was the one I enjoyed the most. I have had quite a few triumphs in piano. For example, I just received a medal in a group I was in. It is called the district festival. I got a 93% so I received a medal for my perfect score, and my family was really proud of me, but I was really proud of myself.

I also have had a triumph in dance. I just had a dance recital, and I had a great time. We sold over 100 tickets which was a huge triumph to me. I think me being a straight-A student is also a really big triumph because you should always do your best when it comes to school.

One last triumph that I have had I would say is getting baptized, it’s an amazing experience. When I first was getting baptized I was a little nervous and scared but once I got dipped in the water I felt closer to God, and I felt like God was wrapped up over me so getting baptized is one of my really big triumphs.

Let’s talk about some of my hardships now. I have had a lot of hardships but I’m going to talk about a couple of them. The first hardship I would say was basketball because there is a lot of yelling, I would take it personally which you shouldn’t do but I did anyway and to this day I still do. Over time I didn’t really like basketball as much I did before so I tried something new which was dance but I might try basketball again.

The last hardship I would say was leaving my old friend group and finding a new one because I was in this friend group and they were talking behind my back which people are going to do in life, but it was hard for me to get over it because I knew them since I was little. I found a different friend group, but it was hard to find a new friend group because I needed to find the right friend group for me. A friend group that will allow me to be me.

I have one more thing to talk about which is how I’ve grown. I’ve grown a lot in my eyes. I feel like I grew from Girl Scouts because it’s like a safe place to me. Not only is it a safe place but it is helping me to speak up and not to be afraid to volunteer, but I also feel like I’ve grown from setting my goals. When you set your goals it’s like you can never give up because of those goals. You might think you can’t accomplish those goals but just wait, watch yourself surprise yourself.

I also have grown from leaving all the toxic people in my life, and now I’m just being myself and just living my life because life on planet earth is very short and everybody is going to pass on one day, so it doesn’t matter what people think about you, be yourself.

Thank you for taking some time out of your day to read my story.

Honorable Mention
By Helen Balvanz, Girl Scout Cadette

My name is Helen Balvanz and I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I go to a small school where everybody knows everybody. If there is drama going on you are involved, whether you want to be or not, everyone is pressuring you to choose a side.

Back in fifth grade, I had just moved to Nebraska and everything was different. I didn’t know the people, I didn’t know the teachers, and the winters were colder and snowier. There was one girl who was really nice to me, so I trusted her, and we became friends. Now all the other girls (about five or six other girls) had some beef with the girl I was hanging out with, so of course because I was hanging out with her none of the other girls really liked me. So, I started hanging out with a boy and the girl. The ‘beef’ got solved so I was hanging out with the girls and the one boy.

Now me and that boy had a lot in common, so I enjoyed hanging out with him. Because of this I started getting bullied by the girls. The only thing was they didn’t realize they were bullying me, they thought they were being funny. They often made jokes about us and planned fake weddings. It hurt me a lot, I had thought we were friends, and they were just being mean to me. I didn’t tell anybody that when they made these kinds of jokes it hurt me, and sometimes I pretended to laugh because everybody else was.

One day one of the girls made a wedding invitation and gave it to me, I shoved it in my backpack and went home. My mom found it and urged me to tell my friends that I didn't like their jokes, that I thought their jokes were mean. I was nervous that they would dump me, I would have no friends, and they would continue making these kinds of jokes. But they didn't, they all apologized, and we became even closer friends.

I realized that I didn’t need to be scared to admit what I was feeling, because if they really were my friends, they wouldn’t dump me because I was feeling sad or angry, they would help me through it. Now all friend groups have bumps, a lot of bumps, but I found out sometimes we just have to talk it out. Sometimes we feel a lot of things and we can’t put our feelings into words, but we can try, and we should try. It’s not always easy, and it’s something that I’m still working on. We all need to be conscious of our words and actions because they hurt people. You may not realize it, but sometimes they do.

We need to remember that everyone has feelings. We need to think about what we are saying before we say it. And most important of all, we need to try to be understanding of other girls' problems. We need to be the best friends that we can be.