Tuesday, October 24, 2017

National Young Woman of Distinction Vilmarie Ocasio Shares Her G.I.R.L. 2017 Story

This October, thousands of girls descended on Columbus, Ohio, to attend G.I.R.L. 2017. Accomplished public figures, such as Chelsea Clinton, Gabby Douglas, Barbara Pierce Bush, Mae Jemison, and more, joined the event throughout the weekend to lead panels and intimate breakout sessions on the pressing issues girls face today. On October 7, the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction joined Chelsea Clinton for lunch to discuss their Girl Scout Gold Award projects and their personal journeys. Later, these ten Gold Award Girl Scouts discussed ways girls can take action in their own communities to change the world.

When it was my turn to talk to Chelsea, I told her about my Gold Award project, which earned me my National Young Woman of Distinction honor. Chelsea asked me about the post-hurricane situation affecting my home in Puerto Rico. I explained to her that with no power, or running water on 80 percent of the island, it was necessary for my family to move to the United States because of my mom’s multiple sclerosis. It was difficult for me to share my story in front of a large audience, but Chelsea took the time to listen and showed that she really cared—she is a true humanitarian.

During our conversation, Chelsea also spoke about Girl Scouts’ G.I.R.L. Agenda, a nonpartisan initiative to inspire, prepare, and mobilize girls and those who care about them to lead positive change through civic action. One point that really stood out to me from the conversation was that girls can be passionate about a cause that matters at any age, they don’t need to be an adult. There are ways to help no matter how big or small someone is.

Traveling to Columbus from Puerto Rico was not easy. It took me more than seven hours in the airport, but the G.I.R.L. 2017 experience and the honor of being named a National Young Woman of Distinction are very important to me. Being part of the Girl Scout sisterhood at G.I.R.L. 2017 showed me how much everyone cares about me and my family. People never really understand the depth of these kinds of situations until they have firsthand experience and see their home destroyed. I was moved to tears when I heard Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Puerto Rico relief song, “Almost Like Praying,” as I was traveling from Ohio to South Carolina. The song mentions every single town in Puerto Rico, and it’s so inspiring to see artists coming together to help. I am proud to hear them using their voices to make a difference.

I am so grateful to Chelsea Clinton and G.I.R.L. 2017 for spreading the word on how girls can make a difference and giving me the opportunity to share my story.

In light of the recent tragedies, Girl Scouts of the USA has lifted fundraising restrictions for impacted councils. Learn more.