Leaving Behind Our Senior Legacy
A few days before graduation, one of my favorite teachers pulled me aside with tears in her eyes and said “Im so proud of you. You’re just so comfortable in your skin now. You've grown so much since freshman year.” Having known me long enough, she remembers the anxiety ridden girl I was in 9th grade; a version of myself I found easy to forget. Her words stuck with me and I caught myself trying to piece together how the transformation took place.
She was right; freshman year I was apologetic and chose my words carefully based on what I thought people wanted to hear. I didn't raise my hand in class because I didn't want to look like I was trying too hard. I forced myself to fit in when every fiber of my being was longing to stand out; to Stand Up, to Make Waves. The summer before my sophomore year I begrudgingly attended training week. My mom was adamant I at least try it, but a room full of high school girls I didn't know, sounded like a nightmare. I assumed it'd be a bunch of snobby, catty girls who wouldn't talk to me…and then Nancy walked in. She was loud, boisterous and funny. She offered me rides home with Niki Manaj and Childish Gambino blaring. From the start, she made me feel completely welcome and at home. I knew after that week what I wanted my legacy to be: inclusion. My goal in this organization has been to welcome people with open arms and an open heart, because I remember how much it meant to me. I needed a little help from the Stand Up Foundation, however, before I could do that. I still vividly remember the first activity I led. I remember playing small, trying to be funny and not too demanding of the kids. Yet again, here I was concerned with what people thought of me. I hated this game I played, but the other leaders showed me I didn't need it to earn respect. I watched leaders like Izzy and Angela take charge; fill up the room with their confidence and get the kids completely engaged. I emulated them, “played” leader, until before I knew it, I was one. I was a leader, but in my own way. Ashley showed me my voice was worth being heard and I believed it. Just like that, the transformation was made. By believing in the validity of my voice, by honoring my authenticity, I found myself. I have learned since then, that my playing small does not serve others. Hopefully these past few years I have been what Nancy and Izzy were to me. I hope that my voice gave others the courage to speak, that my silliness gave people the comfortability to be themselves. The first to get on the dance floor and the last to leave, the rapper with a tin foil grill, this is my legacy and I`m so grateful to the Stand Up foundation for helping me find it.
Hannah T., Class of 2017