To start things off, if you haven’t heard the news, I’ve been named as a National Young Woman of Distinction – a title and $15,000 scholarship awarded to those who demonstrate exceptional determination and whose Gold Award Projects have meaningful impacts on their communities. It is an honor to have been selected and I am beyond ecstatic to have the opportunity to travel the country for a year and inspire other people with Rewire Society. It has changed my life.
It all starts when I wake up at 3AM Thursday morning to board my plane to Ohio for the G.I.R.L. 2017 convention with my troop leaders- my mother, and a family friend I consider my second mother, Gina. Being named as a National Young Woman of Distinction (or NYWOD) entitles that I travel there with nine other exceptional young women to be celebrated and to inspire others with our projects. I sent this letter to all of my professors. Now… I like to think I’m a diligent and good student. I study hard and write down all of my deadlines. I think my math professor and/or his department either didn’t believe the letter was real, thought I was trying to lie to get out of work, or maybe he really just didn’t care – but he was relentless in assigning new homework due all Thursday and Saturday nights and making me take an exam in the middle of all of the chaos going on at the convention. On the entire flight to there, I studied the practice tests and review sheets. None of it was on the test. I was livid. I handed the test in to my proctor, Erin, and told her to burn it in a fiery rage. She said she would send me a video of it, HAHA!
After my exam, I had a lot of rehearsals and meetings all day. That night, I went to dinner with the council of San Jacinto and my troop leaders. It was supposed to be a mingling event, but Gina had no idea that mom and I had a surprise in mind for her. (Bwhahaha!) We wouldn’t be in Girl Scouts if it wasn’t for her, and she had made this opportunity possible for me. She’s known me since I was two, and is someone I look up to as a role model. I hope to be as fearless, bold, sassy, and fierce as she is someday. When everyone had ordered their food, the President of San Jacinto Council, Jean, stood, silenced the entire restaurant, and introduced me, making everyone think I was going to give a speech. Which… I mean, I was, but not the speech everyone thought I was going to give. You can watch the video to see what happened. After the video cuts off (silly phone), I read to her this poem. I gave her a silver charm that read, “Because of You…” on one side, and “We Love You, Gina,” on the other. She was crying. A lot.
I also got to meet some INCREDIBLE 12 and 16 year olds that night. I had no idea what delegates were or what they did, but after interviewing and speaking with my council’s delegates, I can honestly say I was in awe of them. Isabel, a 12 year old, wants to implement LGBT awareness in her middle school. A 16 year old wants to create debate teams and educate other people about the importance of political involvement. I’m like, “YA’LL ARE 12 AND 16!!!”wsx They were at the convention to decide on different policies that would be carried out in Girl Scouts – as in, yes, the official policies and guidelines that ALL of Girl Scouts had to follow. They were fantastic and I was honored to meet them. Gina, mom, and I walked a mile and a half back to our hotels and I turned in my homework assignments due that night.
Then I went to bed for the insanity that would be Friday. We woke up early in the morning to have breakfast, then went off to our awards ceremony. We were late, so the make-up artists only had time to powder our faces, give us mascara, some lip gloss, and off we went to the stage! Before they called my name, I had a very “movie-esque” moment. Memories rushed into my mind; images of my early childhood, the faces of my teachers, the tears and hardships of my parents to get me where I am today, my little sister’s beautiful eyes looking up to me every step of the way, and the friends and people who shaped my very perspective and who I am… tears welled in my eyes and I had to sit down. Voices faded into murmurs, and every sound became apparent – the scuffling of shoes on the wooden stage, one of the NYWOD rubbing the fabric of her dress nervously in her fingers beside me, the gentle shudders of the bass from the speakers beyond the curtains, and my mind became so quiet. I was there. Aware of the present moment.
Lesley, my speech teacher, came over to ask if I was okay. I looked up at her with watery eyes and said, “Yeah. I’m just happy.” When it was time to go, I stood and waited by the curtains. I spit out my unfinished cough drop at the last minute (I was fighting a bad cold,) and walked out when they called my name. It was surreal. There I was on stage in front of 10,000 people. I thought to myself, “Why are these people here? Why would they want to see or listen to me?” I looked into the crowd, and they looked at me. I wondered if they truly saw me or had the slightest concept of who I was, my story, my hopes, my fears, and my dreams, or if they were just interested in my title… my label. Then my eyes swept over my mother – far off in the distance, but there. I’m not sure how to describe the wave of emotion that overcame me except that it was immense gratitude. I burst into tears right there on that stage in front of 10,000 people. I cried harder when Sylvia handed me the scholarship, and Kathy placed the NYWOD scarf over my head. When Susan Butler, the donor, came by to shake my hand, I hugged her and told her, “You have changed my life.“
When we came back off stage, I was still dazed. That changed when the stage manager rushed up to tell us we had to go back on, dance, and lead a parade to the Hall of Experience. “You want me to WHAT???” It was so sudden, I didn’t have time to be scared. We went back on and danced IN FRONT OF 10,000 PEOPLE!!! After that, nothing phased me. Nobody but me seemed to be trying to keep the crowd pumped, but that was okay. There were many enthusiastic enough to respond and follow me. After that, we sat to lunch with Susan Butler, the woman who had donated $10,000 to each of us. I spoke with her one-on-one and asked her about her life and she about mine. After that, we went to an interview with Girl Scout’s TV crew where I got to meet another Angela! She was interviewing us and you can watch it here. Throughout all of this, I was going over my speech that I was nervous about giving at a donor reception that night…
This was a HUGE EVENT and INCREDIBLE HONOR for me to be asked to speak there. For one thing, it was super fancy – probably the fanciest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. There were plants EVERYWHERE. For another, I was speaking in front of Girl Scout’s sponsors. This includes CEO’s from Toyota, AT&T, Big Lots, Macy’s, Kellogg’s, LinkedIn – I’m talking the big dogs. I was terrified at first, but once I was off of the bus, I was okay. They just wanted to hear my story. Upon entering the building, I realized wearing heels was a HUGE MISTAKE! There were NO CHAIRS!! Just high tables everybody intermingled around! Every time someone spoke to me, I had to pardon myself to find a bench. I felt ridiculous, HAHA! But the speech went well. I felt like I kept staring at the podium the whole time, but everyone in the room was in tears by the end of my story so my understanding was that I did okay.
I went to bed that night feeling sick and exhausted. We got up early the next morning for another breakfast (Starbucks lol) and I went to my first panel with Lea, Rajvi, and Yue. We were asked SO MANY questions both by Laura, a 2016 NYWOD, and the 40 scouts that were attending. It was funny – at one point, we were asked how many hours we had logged in our projects. The other NYWOD said, “96 hours… 130 hours… 203 hours…” and the scouts were amazed. When it came time for me to speak, I said in a really low voice into the microphone, “…786.2 hours…” “WHAT???” “HOW???” I laughed and said, “A looooooooooooot of nights staying up until 3 in the morning to photoshop all of those stupid pictures.” We all had a good laugh.
After that, it was on to the main event! We got to give our speeches in the Town Square. You may listen to mine in the video. I feel like I’m getting better and more confident with this “public-speaking” thing. After our speeches, some scouts came up and spoke with me and asked for my picture! They were so sweet! After that, we went to lunch with Chelsea Clinton. I didn’t agree with everything her family did and said, but I had immense respect for her and what she was trying to accomplish. It was nice to get to know the human being behind the name and face. I asked her about her kids and her favorite color (it’s red, by the way.) We had an interview with her in front of thousands of people, and we asked each other questions about how we were trying to make a difference in our communities.
Then, I was on to my next panel with Vilmarie! I had the honor and privilege to meet the famous Marley Dias, founder of 1000 Black Girl Books, and Katie Bowers from the Harry Potter Alliance! I spoke alongside them, answering questions, and overall, having a good time. If there was one thing I could change about that conversation, I would have answered a particular question differently. I was asked how I got the award, because she “wants a NYWOD for her council, too.” I didn’t reply honestly for fear of offending anyone, but if I could go back, I would have told her she was going about it all wrong… I didn’t know what NYWOD was until after I had earned my Gold award. The reason the ten of us got the award was because our projects were carried out from the heart and organically. Now I fear she might drive other scouts to get NYWOD rather than wanting to make an impact on their communities, and when the scouts don’t get the award, they’ll feel they’ve wasted their time… that’s not what I had intended. But! – what’s done is done.
After that, it was pretty chill… there wasn’t any running around to do. We just had to dress up and go to a dinner party with the rest of the convention. The other NYWOD went to go dance, but I was an old lady about it and went to bed instead. I was EXHAUSTED! I laid in bed, checking my phone, when I saw that Chelsea had posted about us. I was initially excited, but then distraught when I started reading all of the negative comments. That night, I went to hang out with the other NYWOD in my PJ’s in one of their hotel rooms for consolation. I was amazed that they were all able to brush them off so easily. I forget that I’m a squishy sensitive person and don’t have to listen to what other people say about me… my fellow NYWOD gave me a much needed dose of my own medicine and helped me brush it off. It made me feel sorry for Chelsea and any of the other children of the presidential candidates… they didn’t get a choice who their parents were, but they’re left to deal with their problems.
In the morning, we were supposed to have breakfast with Gabby Douglass, but I think she forgot about it. We met her briefly, and when Camie (we call her Momma Camie because she’s basically all of the NYWOD’s mom) asked about it, her agent looked at her funny and was like, “Haha… um…” SO there was no breakfast. We were starving and stuffed our faces with Starbucks before we attended the closing ceremony. One scout in front of me dropped her papers all over the floor. Naturally, I bent down to help her pick them up. When she looked up at me, her eyes went wide and she said, “You’re Angela!” “Yeah!” I said. We had a conversation about Rewire Society and I asked her about her ideas for her project, gave her some pointers, and then we went our separate ways. I loved that part of being a NYWOD. At the ceremony, there was a woman on stage talking to us about why standardized testing was a necessity because it’s the only way to track “progress.” As someone who thinks the entire idea of standardized testing is ridiculous, I couldn’t get behind what she was saying, but she seemed nice and like a very hard-working lady. I didn’t think less of her for it or anything. Just disagreed.
On my way back to my hotel room to go pack, a little girl approached me and told me I was her favorite. I got all gushy inside and told her she was my favorite too. She gave me a ribbon which I tied in my hair and left it there all day. Then it was time to pack and get on my way home… I miss it, but jeez, I was happy to be in my own bed and to finally get some SLEEP. I had to be up at 6am for work though… sigh…
…but the next day, I got to get the day off, sleep in, and relax spending a day at the zoo with my boyfriend, Patrick. ♥ G.I.R.L. 2017 was… something else. When I wasn’t trying to be in multiple places at once, other people were pulling me aside, recognizing me by name, and asking me questions. I doubt my fame will go much beyond the convention. I wish I could have spent more time talking with other people and hearing their stories… not because it was cool to be recognized (I mean, it kind of was… a little… maybe…) but I genuinely love telling and hearing stories. As much as people tell me I influence them, they influence me in turn… I loved that part of the convention. I learned a lot and I hope I was able to equip the scouts there with the inspiration and examples they needed to pursue their dreams as I have. There’s still a whole year of this to go… man, what a start! I’m looking forward to whatever else it may bring!