Voices

Thank You, Girl Up: A 10-Year Reflection

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Dear Girl Up,

This month, I celebrated my ten-year anniversary with Girl Up. I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few days, months, and years in this community. Those were the the “before times” – before Girl Up was the global movement it is today. Back then, it was still an idea, a concept, a burgeoning campaign. It was changing, shifting, dipping, glimmering. I’ve also been thinking a lot about who I was, now over a decade ago. Entering a new phase of life, a new profession, a new city, a new chapter – a chapter that became a whole new volume in my story, a quarter of my time on earth.

Girl Up has changed me. You – each of you Girl Up leaders – have changed me, and I am so proud of who I’ve become, and who we’ve become. Thank you for teaching me. Thank you for trusting me. I have spent almost every one of the last 3,700 or so days attempting to be worthy of this role, this opportunity, this life. And I will spend the rest of my days paying it forward.

As I reflect on the greatest ways I’ve changed, I realize three of my greatest learnings came from all of you: embracing vulnerability, unapologetic perseverance and leading side by side.

Vulnerability has been a part of my journey at Girl Up since showing up my first day at a new job, in a new city – on crutches (and then a knee-scooter). I needed help from day one – help with my bag, help getting around the office, a couch to crash on, someone to hold the elevator. I made a big career shift from non-profit fundraising events to the United Nations Foundation. I was pretty intimidated, and so very excited.

That first year of Girl Up was a challenge. I persevered. I put myself right in the middle of everything hard and tried to make it all just a bit easier for my team. I joined Girl Up as we were just starting to figure out what the campaign, now global movement, was – and wasn’t – going to be. I was figuring how I was –and wasn’t – going to lead. We persevered.

I asked for the opportunity to lead Girl Up when the time came. I asked for the thing I was not fully ready (or feeling qualified) to do, and yet, the thing I was actually already doing. I didn’t quite have the full confidence of my team, but I believed in myself. I really thought I could do it. And so far, I have persevered through the challenges. We have persevered – and we have succeeded.

Most importantly, in those early years, I met and learned from teen girl after teen girl across the U.S. an beyond – your drive, passion, energy and fearlessness inspired me to keep pushing through the hardest times.

Each one of you has taught me something – a new way to be, a new way to lead. I’ve learned how to push harder, how to be braver and bolder. I’ve learned to really listen. You all taught me to hope and dream and find the light in very dark days and times. You have taught me how to be in community with others and how to build myself as a leader by supporting, coaching, championing and building leaders around me. I learned to lead the way that felt the most authentic to me, side by side with other leaders – side by side with you.

To learn from you and do my part to keep growing, so Girl Up can keep growing, is the greatest privilege of my life. I appreciate the responsibility of this position of influence, my potential to wield this power for good, for the greatest good – for every girl everywhere. None of this is about me, or even about any single one of us. This is about all girls, all young people, all of humanity. Thank you, 3700 times over, and for decades to come!

XO,

Melissa

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