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Girl Scout Alum Stories – Written by: Lily Simon

Lily Simon Graphic

Growing up, my life outside of the home was filled with learning opportunities and I was introduced to women that equipped me with the skills to adopt a growth mindset. Many of these women were part of Girl Scouts, an organization that I’ve been involved with since I was eight years old. I attribute the exposure I had as a young girl to my success as a 20-year-old woman today.

I joined Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (GSNEO) Troop 80525 as a Brownie. When I first started, I was surrounded by girls who all immediately became my best friends. Every Monday I looked forward to that two-hour meeting. It meant that I could escape my home life and let loose—as loose as a second grader could get. I got to learn things that I would never learn in a traditional classroom; like tomahawk throwing, sales and networking skills, horseback riding, knot tying (something that I have needed to use on more than one occasion), and so much more. I got to attend summer camp every year. Girl Scouts also enabled me to travel. I got to explore new places at a young age. I learned that there was more to life than just what was offered in my little town. Those experiences alone set the foundation for my future. I have always yearned for greater things, for new adventures. My participation in Girl Scouts gave me the space to achieve those great things I had always wanted to do and so much more. I even earned my Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards during my tenure with GSNEO.

When I was earning my Gold Award, I decided that I wanted to earn this honor at age 14—my freshman year of high school. Volunteering has always been something that is important to me. My participation in Girl Scouts reinforced that value. My project tackled the lack of volunteerism within my high school. I hosted a volunteer resource fair. I gathered all of the organizations within my city that relied on volunteers to function. To say this fair was a success would be an understatement. For months after the first fair was completed, I received lots of positive feedback from the beneficiary surveys I collected from those organizations’ leaders. I was praised for helping them recruit volunteers. Some even mentioned they were having to turn away volunteers because they simply had too many who wanted to participate with them!

Completing this project was a challenge. The Gold Award committee I was assigned to was not as worried about me finishing my project in my desired time frame. It is not in my nature to be patient. I wanted this project done so it could be sustained as time went on. I confronted this challenge with diligence. I remained proactive and learned how to endure and appreciate both the positive and negative feedback I was given.

While the first annual volunteer resource fair was being completed, I was approached by city officials and asked if I wanted to be the chairperson for the City of Ashtabula’s Annual Memorial Day Parade. To think, an entire City Council trusted a 14-year-old high school freshman to take on such a feat. My initial thoughts when they approached me were “why me?” and “I have never been in charge of a parade before, what the heck am I supposed to do?” As time went on, I realized that I was selected to be the face of this project for a reason. There were people in my network who have seen the drive I have to pursue my passions firsthand. Those were the leaders that advocated for me. This initial support gave me the confidence to take an inventory of the resources available to me. I used these resources—people, grants, and past city records—to help me pull off this first parade in 2017. I took on this role three more times and only stopped in 2020, my senior year of high school and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being a girl is hard. We are faced with a lot of different pressures from both our families and society. With these external pressures at play, it is difficult to stay motivated to pursue greatness. I experienced this lack of motivation at one point, but I was inspired by other leading women in my Girl Scout community to continue to move forward and work through the challenges that faced me in life. I held a lot of responsibilities and accolades in school. I was the Class Vice President, a member of the National Honors Society, an intern with the Attorney General of Ohio, a varsity swimmer (and school record breaker), an employee, and a straight-A student taking college courses, all while living in an unfriendly family environment. If I had given in to the pressure of society, I would not have been able to do all of those things in my adolescence. I would never have been given the chance to realize what I was capable of.

When I first started classes at The Ohio State University, I experienced a bad case of imposter syndrome. My first semester was full of amazing professors, friends, and experiences, and I even climbed a mountain! When my second semester rolled around though, it was much different. I was riding on the high from that fall and expected to have that same experience again. Eventually, I realized that I could take initiative and choose my own path. So, I ultimately switched my major and acquired an internship that allowed me to move to Montana for a summer. This was something that I had dreamed of doing from a very early age.

This internship taught me a lot of things, but most importantly it taught me that I can take on any challenge that is thrown at me. When it was time for me to return back to Ohio to complete my second year of undergrad, I knew it wasn’t going to be a very long goodbye between me and the Wild West. I traveled back there frequently to see my friends and explored even more new places in between those trips. It wasn’t until November of 2022 when I was sleeping on an air mattress in my best friend's apartment in Denver that I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I was traveling as a young girl and was learning invaluable life lessons along the way. If I had never joined Girl Scouts in second grade, I would not have realized this quality about myself. I would have missed out on some amazing experiences and some really cool stories that I can share with a lot of different people.

Being a Girl Scout taught me to embrace discomfort. I was taught to break boundaries and venture into the unknown. I did things that no other girl my age had ever thought of doing before and showed my peers that they could do some really cool things with their lives too. They just had to do it. If I had not decided to join Girl Scouts at eight years old, I would never have been able to be a leader in every community I have lived in thus far, I would not have been able to go to college and remain debt free, I would not have been inspired to move across the country not once, but twice before I even hit the age of 21, and I would have never been as confident in my ability to succeed as I am now.

While I am currently still living in Montana and finishing my degree online, I am more confident than ever in my decision to take my dreams seriously. I know that I have earned the skills that will grant me the ability to successfully navigate my next adventure when my time in Montana is over. I have the Girl Scouts to thank for that.