Standing Up: Keeping a Promise and Being a Leader

United Way fights for the education, health and financial stability of every person in Lucas, Wood and Ottawa counties.

I’m a Girl Scout, or, as we say when in meetings: a G.I.R.L. — Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader. I’ve said this phrase over and over again, but never realized the impact of these words until the day I met Marah.

Marah started at Grove Patterson Elementary about halfway through my eighth grade year. She is a refugee from Aleppo, Syria, and I was assigned to show her around school and introduce her to some of my classmates.

I grew up friends with most of the other girls in my eighth grade class. Most of them I’ve known since kindergarten. But Marah was different; she was new and from an unfamiliar place.

Yet, walking around with her that first day, we discovered that we had a lot in common. We both were super tall, we liked polka dots on everything and loved musicals, so I told her about our school’s upcoming play auditions. I had never connected with someone so quickly.

When I was in elementary, there weren’t “right” friends or “wrong” friends. My friends and I call these times the “la-di-da days.” Like, la-di-da, everything’s good, everyone’s great, la-di-da! Skipping along to the rhythm, not a care in the world. As I grew older, this changed. It started to feel like I did have to care–especially about who I was and wasn’t hanging out with.

“The pressure to fit in with a group of friends grew as quickly as I grew in height!”


That first day with Marah, I remember sitting in the cafeteria at lunch, telling her about which teachers I liked and, of course, which ones you had to be careful of. A girl I used to hang out with (way back in the la-di-da days) walked by with a group of her friends and stopped at our table. She ignored my polite “hello” and, to my surprise, pulled her cardigan over the top of her head, cruelly imitating Marah’s headscarf.

I’d never experienced that uncomfortable of a “joke” before. I couldn’t let that girl get away with treating others so terribly. And that’s when the Girl Scout words came back to me.

G.I.R.L.= Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader. Everything we do inside my Girl Scout Troop is about becoming those things outside the program. We also talked a lot about how to deal with conflict, like bullying.

At first, I wanted to throw an insult back in her face, pick on something about how she talked or dressed. At first, I wanted to splash my drink in her face and tell her to “shut up!” But that’s not what Girl Scouts do.

“When I joined Girl Scouts, I made a promise to help people at all times and be a good person.”


Girl Scouts are courageous and strong. We do our best to respect ourselves and others. Sometimes that means not reacting to the haters in this world. In that moment, I needed to quit skipping to the old la-di-da rhythm and create a new beat.

I turned away from the girl I used to be friends with, and looked at the others in the group. “Girls, this is Marah. We’re going to try out for the play next week. Who’s going with us?”


This post is brought to you by the generous support of KeyBank. As one of the nation’s largest financial service companies, KeyBank prides itself on taking a relationship-based approach, with a commitment to helping clients and communities thrive.


*This blog post is fictional but based on a real success story submitted by Girl Scouts of Western Ohio. All identities of submitted success stories are anonymous for privacy and story details have been added in order to provide a better understanding of the individual’s personal successes and struggles.

Change Maker Action: Because of your support, United Way of Greater Toledo and our strong corporate partners, like KeyBank, are able to invest in Girl Scout programming, which empowers young females to become leaders and innovators here in our community.