Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unleashing Your True G.I.R.L. and Being the Best You!

Guest Blog Post by Girl Scout alum, Meredith Garofalo

“On my honor, I will try, to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” These are words that decades after I learned them I still can recite and that I make a part of my life each and every day as a Girl Scout alum. Let me introduce myself—I’m a meteorologist on a national weather network, WeatherNation. It was a dream I had as a little girl and that I’m proud to say is now my career! I forecast the weather from coast to coast to millions of people every single day across numerous platforms. I love my job, but the coolest part of all? I’m a GIRL SCOUT and proud of it!

I started off as a Daisy and continued through Senior. My mother thought becoming part of a Girl Scout troop would be a good idea for me because in elementary school I was bullied and a victim of both verbal and emotional abuse. My self-esteem was very low because other kids would make fun of the way I looked and dressed. I’ll never forget how I was referred to as “four eyes” because I wore glasses or as “the scum between my toes” by one girl. It was depressing, and I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, wondering what was wrong with me because of what others thought. My mother decided to be a troop leader with a couple of other moms and that’s when Troop 456 started. I began to look forward more and more every week to our Girl Scout meetings and experiences, and I found myself developing friendships that helped build back up some of my confidence. I loved playing basketball, and some of the girls in my troop invited me to play on a recreation team with them, which continued to keep me motivated and developed my leadership skills (and passion for sports!). As the years passed, I felt much stronger about standing up to bullies and knew I always had my fellow Girl Scouts on my side. If I needed to cry, other Girl Scouts were there for me. They continued to remind me to keep my focus on being the best me I could and to shine at the things I did best, instead of focusing on the negative. Although my troop members went their separate ways in middle school and high school and belonged to other groups and “cliques,” we always connected and provided a circle of support for each other. If it wasn’t for all those years in Girl Scouts, I do not think I would have found my true G.I.R.L., focusing each day on being a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader! 

Being a broadcast meteorologist was my dream since I was three years old, but it was a path with as many challenges and failures as successes and accomplishments. First off, getting a degree in meteorology is not easy. My college curriculum heavily emphasized math and science, which I found out were not my strongest assets. It was easier for me to get up in front of a camera and ad-lib than it was for me to remember formulas and calculate the answers to word problems. One freshman-year professor even told me to reconsider my career because she didn’t think I could make it through the program. That was a heavy blow, but because being a meteorologist was my lifelong dream and because of all the support I had received over the years, I decided I would push myself harder than ever to continue to prove all the doubters wrong. There were nights in the library I wanted to give up and tests that I failed, but by staying focused and believing in myself, I was able to graduate and within just weeks get my first on-air meteorologist job. 

Even though I’m now doing what I set out to do and I’ve been in my television career for more than a decade, I’ve had to get over many hurdles in order to succeed. At times, I’ve had to deal with bullies and harassment in the newsroom, which hit all too close to home, considering my childhood experiences. I’ve been fired and had to rebuild my confidence to move forward and start over again somewhere new. Countless viewers write in to make fun of my clothes or the way I look or to say that they “hate” the way I present the weather. Deep down I know these are just other people’s opinions, but they still stung and made me second-guess myself. And yes, I considered giving up, but at the end of the day it was never, ever going to be MY option. All those years in Girl Scouts helped build me up and continue to be a reminder to love who I am every single day, be proud of it, and NEVER choose to give up on what I’m passionate about most. I have failed, but every single one of those moments has only led me up higher and higher on the ladder to my goals. 

Girl Scouts was a lifesaver for me and, even as an adult, I still live by the Girl Scout mission to help make this world a better place. If you’re a parent reading this, especially one who might see your daughter being bullied, know that Girl Scouts at ANY age can and will make a difference. A troop is a safe place to learn more about who you are and who you want to be. The girls in a troop help bring out the best in each other by encouraging each girl to be herself. No one judges her and everyone celebrates the things that make her shine! Girl Scouts builds confidence in even the shyest and most introverted girls, and they will develop a bond with others in the troop that will last a lifetime. I STILL am friends on social media with some of the women who were in my troop decades ago and we still share positivity and inspiration with each other! 

Although the online world is a great way to connect, it also can be poisonous. I continually see stories in the news of girls who are victimized and bullied through the internet and it breaks my heart. I think a program like Girl Scouts is so much more important now than ever before to help combat this problem and teach girls to stay strong together and always lift each other up. It helps young girls focus on things beyond social media and gets them out in the community to do positive things like volunteering, spending time outdoors, attending events, and being part of experiences that motivate, inspire, and create lifetime memories! Some of the most important things I learned as a Girl Scout—acquiring survival skills for rising above bullying, handling tough situations and taking on leadership roles, doing badges that kept me excited about my future career—are topics I continue to talk to troops about. Girl Scouts is forever—it becomes a part of you. It motivates you and reminds you of the power of being a girl in a constantly changing world. 

My final words of advice to ANY girl reading this are: Embrace being unique and different. People who are mean to you and make fun of you because you think outside the box only do it because they are weak and are trying to steal the wind from your sails. Do not be afraid to stand up to bullies—for yourself or for a friend. Hold your ground, but also spread positivity and never hate. If you want something bad enough, the ONLY person who can tell you it cannot be done is YOU. Sing the song in your heart every day, and remember that it takes just one girl, with a big dream, with the support of peers, and a passion to reach the stars, to make a difference forever. Be that girl, and live the life of a Girl Scout. Shine and lead the way, because no one can ever take away your light and legacy. You go, G.I.R.L.!