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A Valuable Lesson I Learned from Volunteering with Young Girls

In order to boost my credibility on my college applications my senior year, coupled with my experience of being a cheerleading captain at my school, I decided to coach a team of twenty-one 6th grade girls with my best friend so that they could dance and pump up the crowd for fun at their own football games on autumn Saturday mornings. Surprisingly, besides teaching them how to grin big and chant so that the whole town could hear them, I actually walked away with more than I thought I would from the experience, so now that I’ve had time to look back on it, I thought I’d share my biggest piece of insight. 

Eventually, as they became comfortable enough to joke around with me and tell me all the little details of their lives, while originally focusing on the effort getting them to project their personalities to be the best cheerleaders they could be on the outside, I also hit the realization that there was a lot of inner conflict that originated at school that was leading to hurt feelings at practice, which involved a lot of my friend and I having to intervene. This, of course, wasn’t a good thing, mostly because it evolved to the point where they were purposefully hindering each other’s progress. It led to a type of competitiveness and insecurity no 11-year old girl should have to experience in a group of others her age, and she should never think she should put other girls down in order to reach her own goals. It’s normal for most girls to struggle with confidence at that impressionable age, but we’ve come to a time where it can be magnified by others through the double-edged sword of social media as well. 

If I could’ve changed one thing about how my friend and I coached, I would’ve emphasized the need for the girls cheering on not just the football team, but each other from the start of the season also, instead of gradually trying to raise a sense of togetherness just before the girls put down their poms for the season. I realized that the idea of girls supporting each other starts young in settings like this, and we need to encourage acceptance, respect, and gratitude for all of their fellow peers, for the benefit of them to get along better in the present, as well as the likely tendency that they’ll make this a regular part of their mindset and continue the same behavior in the future. Think of all the feminist movements happening today, and how none of those would’ve evolved with the momentum they have now if strong women didn’t support each other. We need to encourage young girls to work together if we want empowerment for our gender in the various issues on our hands. And, as you’re probably reading this as a college woman pursuing an education, you have the ability to provide this positive influence in a community in Seattle if you wish. 

So, if you happen to get involved in the rewarding experience of working alongside young women, whether it be an educational or extracurricular experience, remember how you can make a difference in their futures. The impact may feel small, but does a greater amount of good.