Encourage Her to Use Her Voice

As a Heart & Sole coach, I get to spend time running and learning with a fun group of middle school girls. Our team had a lesson on Romantic Relationships yesterday. I was so excited for this one because I have so many thoughts on this topic. But for all of my excitement about this practice, I didn’t get to go. I had to work late, which was disappointing.

Working as a high school testing coordinator, I often have to stay late at school on testing days. And while I don’t love my work administering standardized tests, it does allow me many opportunities to sit one-on-one with high school students who are experiencing enormous stress over test-related graduation requirements on top of some very tumultuous life experiences. Yesterday was one of those days. It was a long, exhausting, stressful day, and I didn’t even get to go to the Heart & Sole practice I was so looking forward to.

But here’s what I did get to do: I got to spend some time being reminded about how impressive teenage girls can be. After a 10-hour workday, I had one of the most engaging conversations I’ve had in quite some time with a high school girl. It was 5:30 p.m., and I had completely forgotten that my body was well into the process of consuming itself since I didn’t have a chance to eat lunch. However, I didn’t even notice once we started talking. That’s how impressive this child was.

As we waited for her parents to pick her up, we talked about her life, her struggles, her history of poor choices, her decision to change her life, her dreams, her goals, her reality. We talked about theater and politics and the criminal justice system. I told her about my history and passion for working with at-risk youth. She told me about her experiences as one. It was an enlightening conversation.

I believe our hour-long conversation ended in a yoga-esque, “the strong, intelligent woman in me recognizes the strong, intelligent woman in you” type of closing.

It’s possible I got a little teary eyed.

And in that moment, I realized that I’ve had several really solid conversations with young girls in recent months. Some of those conversations were with middle school girls on my Heart & Sole team. Some were with high school students at work. Some were with kids just out in the world.

Too often, we look at teenage girls as being shallow, self-involved, judgmental and superficial. That’s really how we cast young girls today, right?

But when you engage these girls in real conversations, they have things to say. They have devastating stories to share. They have insights into real-world issues and solutions to suggest. Contrary to what some of us might believe, they think quite a lot about their world and the things that need to change, as well as how to change them.

If we don’t give them a place to share those stories and insights and solutions, we’ll miss out. So, encourage her to use her voice, even when society is unwilling to acknowledge it. Because, eventually, we’ll get on her level and hear what she has to say.

Girls on the Run believes in the profoundly positive impact of female role models in a girl’s life. To register your daughter for one of our life-changing programs, connect with your local council today!

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