I was an extremely shy kid growing up, to say the least. Being the first generation born in the US, I grew up only speaking Russian at home. I started kindergarten only knowing some basic English words but felt like it was hard to keep up with others. I felt different for having a different background and did not feel as American as the rest of my classmates. It made me feel like I was incapable to fit in, which translated into my behavior of my next crucial years. It was hard for me to start a conversation and show my personality outside of being home. I craved comfort, connection, and friendship more than anything, but found it hard to do so.
However, joining extracurricular and physical activities has helped me find the inner confidence that I needed to fulfill my desire for a sense of belonging. Throughout middle school, I participated in sports such as basketball, volleyball, and dance. Outside of school, I participated in community theater productions, helping me find my voice and gain confidence through performing. In Highschool, I tried out for the cheer team using my dance background and found my calling as I became an active cheerleader for all 4 years. Performing in front of the whole school and being a member of such a spirited team of strong girls has transformed me into being more comfortable being myself, extroverted, and willing to engage in leadership.
Participating in these wonderful activities have allowed me to create the close-knit bonds I always wanted. I was able to feel healthy, supported, and felt empowered about being bilingual and getting to experience two cultures at the same time. Today, I feel confident in who I am and actively support girls joining a community they can belong to and be themselves, such as Girls On The Run!