Owning Her Strengths: From a Shy Young Lady to a Bold, Fearless, and Confident Leader

Oct 24, 2022 | Main Blog | 0 comments

Bold, Fearless, and Confident. These were not quite the adjectives I would use to describe my 13-year-old self. Thirteen was the age that I entered a new school. A fresh start to discover how I could embody all these qualities, right? Wrong. When I started middle school at Greenhill, I was nervous and shy. I didn’t know what to expect from the class work, I didn’t know if I would make friends, and I didn’t know if I would even enjoy my time there. I was anxious when I stepped onto Greenhill’s campus for my first day of 5th grade. I sat there with my “Zuca” (a rolling bag on wheels, with a clever seat and storage to hold lots of books, instantly identifying you as a middle schooler) in tow, fear behind my smile, hoping that just maybe I would find someone nice to sit with during lunch that day.

When I made the walk into those doors and checked in for class, I felt slightly at ease. Something about those long hallways and giant classroom pods took away the nervous smile and replaced it with a genuine one, partly because it made me feel as though I was crossing the threshold from child to young adult. As time went on during the school year, yes, I made friends, and yes, I felt comfortable with the class load, yet what I couldn’t seem to get a grip on, what everyone seemingly managed so well, was involvement outside of the classroom. I remember attending my first parent-teacher conference in 5th grade, along with my parents and my advisor. We discussed my matriculation at Greenhill and what I was involved in besides my academic course load. I remember sitting there being silent, unable to think of anything I was involved in outside of the classroom or what I had become a part of since entering those doors at the beginning of the school year.

My parents shot me this chilling look, which I knew meant they had something to say about my lack of involvement. When we left the parent-teacher conference, my parents asked me why I was not involved in any extracurricular activities at school. I just shrugged and said I don’t know. They even tried to help me by suggesting ideas they thought would be of interest to me: “Well, what about the class council or a club you create with your friends?” Every one of those ideas sounded horrifying to me; me leading a group of people I don’t know, having to sit and tell them what activities or things we should do for the year and expecting them to listen to me? The thought of me leading anything was crazy and frightening at the same time, so if you told me I would enter high school with a completely different mindset, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Fast forward to 2017, the start of my freshman year at Greenhill, when my opportunity and interest for involvement outside of the classroom only grew. As time progressed, I became more confident in my environment and comfortable with those around me. So, when the club fair rolled around at the beginning of the school year, I decided that I needed to step out of my comfort zone, not only to prove to others but to teach 5th-grade Zoë that leadership was not something that she should fear. I wanted to prove to her that fear can actually help you grow. If you do not overcome your fears, you will never move from where you are. I recall attending the club fair, putting my name down for at least 5+ clubs, and feeling even more confident when I walked out of the room. Flash forward to sophomore year, I applied to be an admissions tour guide for my school. I was accepted, and I carried that role with so much pride and joy. Flash forward to junior year, I became an athletic representative on student government.

Then fast forward to senior year, I became a peer mentor, someone who helped freshmen in high school navigate their way both inside and outside of the classroom. I also became the captain of my varsity cheer and lacrosse teams. I share all this to say, if I never realized how pushing yourself and facing your fears is the best way to become something you never knew you could, then I would still be the same shy girl who barely wanted to say hello to anyone she didn’t know or believe I had anything to contribute. Joining these organizations in high school and even taking on leadership roles in some ways gave me the boost I needed to graduate Greenhill as a Bold, Fearless, and Confident leader, proud of all I had accomplished.

The foundation I laid in high school has carried over and continued to blossom during my time in college as well. At Spelman, I am currently involved in The Granddaughters Club, Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity (Executive Board Member – Publicity Chair 2022-2023), the Student Ambassadors Program, and the SpelREADS Literacy Program. My involvement in college in these various organizations brings forth those same Bold, Fearless, and Confident familiar traits I felt and learned in high school. A feeling that exceeds anything beyond what I could ever imagine as a meek little girl in 5th grade, uncertain of herself and her individual contributions to society. My growth into these leadership roles is something that I am forever grateful for, because without them I would not be who I am today.

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Zoë Purdy

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