I was asked a great honor this past week by Girl Scouts Spirit of Nebraska. I know a few contacts there as a result of requests to offer a presentation via my job. I was asked to be the keynote speaker at the Omaha area Girl Awards Ceremony, where girls in middle and high school are recognized for earning the highest honors in girl scouting, by age level. I put a lot of thought and time into this speech I gave to 700 people – girls and their families. And I wanted to share with you all. It’s called: Its Not Cocky; It’s Confidence.” Enjoy!
——————————————————————————————————————————————Good evening. I’m grateful to join you tonight as you celebrate your incredible accomplishments as Girl Scouts. Every time I hear about a scout project or meet someone connected to this organization, my heart skips a beat because of the many memories I have related to it. And then I brag about my own experience. But it’s not cocky; it’s confidence.
I began my Girl Scout experience in the second grade and continued through high school. But my memories of scouting really begin in middle school, which consisted of painting playground equipment at a couple parks in town, December holiday craft night (which I hated. I want to be crafty, but I tend to be deficient in making my crafts look good.), and a trip west to view the Sandhill cranes – but none showed up. Our troop loved staying in Indian Village at Camp Catron near Nebraska City. Someone would always get stuck in a mud pit while creeking (many shoes were left behind), we climbed the rock wall (we even challenged a local sportscaster to race us up; he lost, miserably), and once we invited a younger troop to join us and they learned the highs and lows of snipe hunting.
As our troop entered high school, our numbers thinned considerably as girls got involved in other activities. But for those who stayed, we took our Girl Scouting experience up a notch. We planned and funded our own week-long trips: in the mountains of Colorado (with a makeshift outside shower) and another time to Minneapolis, where we spent at least one full day at the Mall of America. My home was the cookie house in town for many years; the semi showed up to our front door in February with the whole community’s cookies, and troops would bring a couple pick-up trucks over to grab their goods. I remember one year, the cookies came on a school closure snow day. And we made the front page of the newspaper, which should tell you a little about the size of my hometown and the lack of news there.
My mom was the leader of two troops and always pushed us to step out of our comfort zone to take a lead in the community – whether that was talking to residents at a retirement home while we picked up their recycling, or leading games for younger girls at a scout event. Eventually, it meant guiding us toward earning the Gold Award. Several opportunities have opened up to me because of my experiences tackling scout-related projects, and people tend to look at you with confidence when you share those experiences – simply because those experiences give you more confidence.
Earning badges, pins, and awards is a driving force in Girl Scouting. The Bronze Award didn’t exist when I was a Junior Scout, but I remember taking on the Silver Award project with my troop members (we hosted a special event for fellow Girl Scouts in my hometown). It was in my junior year of high school that the Gold Award project really pushed me to the next level. I organized and hosted an outdoor event for girls in my community, called “Butterflies in My Garden.” Girls were able to use their construction skills to build their own butterfly house among other related activities that day. From the creation of the idea to the development of the day’s agenda and activities, to finding supplies and creating a budget, many of the skills I learned through the project itself gave me the confidence to tackle other big jobs.
As a high school senior, I applied for over 50 college scholarships using the same organizational system and Excel spreadsheet to accomplish my Gold Award. And I got over half my education paid for with scholarships. My high school hosted a recognition night every May, where they recognized National Honor Society members, honor roll recipients, and announced senior
scholarships and college intentions – including surprising students who received local scholarships with the announcement right then. That night, my name was read, and I stood to make my way toward the stage. I knew the first set of scholarships, including an academic leadership scholarship and a theatre scholarship from my intended college, Doane. But imagine my surprise when they kept going…and going…and going. I had earned a handful of scholarships that I had applied for. They were still reading by the time I got back to my seat. I felt a little embarrassed that they kept going, but mostly, I was proud. I worked my tail off to earn that cash for college. I knew if I could organize a Gold Award project and earn those scholarships, I could tackle anything college was going to dish out. It’s not cocky; it’s confidence.
After high school, I spent my college years leading a couple troops (meetings were held in a conference room at my residence hall), summers leading camps at Catron where I had camped as a girl, and planning, recruiting volunteers, and facilitating Lincoln Day Camp week. I wanted to be a high school social studies teacher and was – for three years in Omaha. But I felt a calling to impact students in a non-traditional setting. Cue a move to Lincoln (where my husband and I married and bought a home) and applying for a position with EducationQuest Foundation, my current employer. EducationQuest is a non-profit organization that helps students with their journey to college, by helping them explore careers, find the right college fit, and find the cash to pay for it. I oversee our middle school programming. I work with middle school counselors and career teachers across the state to provide engaging content that informs and encourages students to make wise choices at a young age to prepare for college. And it’s a cool job. I mean, I’m a pretty big deal. Just ask my co-workers. They’ll tell you I’m not cocky; I’m confident.
Girl Scouting has taught me how to lead, how to speak, and how to be confident. And that all starts with the power of positive relationships. Relationship building is central to growing my work of providing early college planning resources to students. As a scout, I learned compromising skills – but also how to stick up for myself. Many people I know struggle to say “no” to projects that they’re not passionate about or too busy to pursue. I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered a balance of work and family time, but I’m definitely not afraid to pass up opportunities that may hinder me from doing a really great job on a current project that needs my attention. While earning my Gold Award, that meant a few Saturdays not hanging out with friends. It was difficult at the time, but the payoff of being a Gold Award recipient far surpasses those memories.
Girl Scouts forced me to not stand on the side. I had to take a public speaking class in high school as a graduation requirement, but I was already growing in my skills before then. These experiences led to me holding the president position in a faith-based organization on my college campus, and current requests to speak to students and adults in my job. I learned how to take initiative. I was proud of the organization I was a part of and the woman it was helping me to become.
But I didn’t always feel that way. Throughout middle and high school, when classmates learned I was still involved, they’d almost talk down to me and say, “You mean you sell cookies?” In middle school, I shied away from them. I was embarrassed. But as I left the awkward middle level years, I learned the importance of finding my niche in high school – and to not be embarrassed to be a Girl Scout. And as a 31-year-old, I’ve learned that while high school may have seemed like the epitome of life at the time, I’ve learned it’s so much better to be an adult. The challenges you face now are preparing you to be a difference maker. And I continue to take on new challenges every year. I’m a mom now, learning how to keep up with my almost-two-year-old, and I started sharing my spiritual journey on a blog, recoveringmartha.com. I wouldn’t be in the place I am today without a solid scouting foundation, and I look forward to how I will continue to impact my sphere of influence.
My high school graduation gift from my mom was a Girl Scout lifetime membership, which I thought was kind of lame at the time. But I know my mom was making a statement about how the role of Girl Scouting impacted my life so tremendously – and how she wanted me to continue living that legacy. And I’m proud to be in a room of fellow scouts celebrating your great achievements. You have so many skills that you’ve already obtained as a result of tackling a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award project. But know there are more skills to come. And you’ll be a driving force in the groups you surround. And when you feel like you really are doing an awesome job, just remember: it’s not cocky, it’s confidence.