Hey everyone, it’s Keeley. In my day job, I am the co-founder and CEO of Wild Friends Foods, an all-natural nut and seed butter company. Through our Fuel Her Future giveback program, we give 1% of sales to initiatives that help women and girls pursue their dreams, including Girls Inc of the Pacific NW. Girls Inc is an amazing non-profit that runs after-school programming for girls to help them be strong, smart, and bold.
Today, we’re sharing an interview with Midori: an 18-year-old graduate of Woodburn High School. Midori chatted with us about life in quarantine, her experience joining Girls Inc in middle school, and the ways she’s grown in confidence and bravery since then.
So, what have you been up to while in quarantine?
I’m taking online college classes to get college credit, since I’ve already finished all my high school classes. I’m considered graduated by Oregon, which is pretty cool. I also work at Starbucks, and we go back to work this weekend for drive-thru and pick-up.
How does it feel to be graduating?
It’s exciting, but it’s not quite as rewarding as I thought it would be just because not everything played out the way I thought it would. Hopefully when the diploma comes in the mail or whatever they decide to do, it’ll feel a little bit better. It’s really a weird time.
What’s your family’s situation right now? Have you been leaving the house?
I only leave the house when I need to, just to go to work or go shopping. My mom is a nurse and my roommate is also a nurse, and so they’re both working at the moment, which is pretty interesting. My mom works at a smaller hospital that isn’t treating COVID-19 patients yet. My roommate works at a bigger hospital that is treating patients and she has to go help when she can, which is kind of stressful. Then I have two younger brothers that are here for half a week. We all try to hang out as much as possible, which is really nice because quarantine makes it so that we all have more time together.
Tell us about your experience with Girls Inc.
I joined Girls Inc my seventh grade year of middle school. At first I didn’t really want to join. I had to choose from a few different after school groups, and I just decided on Girls Inc because my mom wanted me to do it and all my friends were also doing it. I ended up actually really enjoying it and becoming pretty active in my area’s Girls Group.
So what does that look like for people who aren’t familiar with Girls Inc? Like when you said you ended up being pretty active? What did that entail?
I would go to meetings after school and participate in the activities we did there. I joined the summer camp program, Eureka. I would go to all the meetings and try to get more of my friends to come with me, which is really fun because then we had like a pretty decent sized group.
It’s an all-girls environment, which is really nice, because it’s really empowering. You don’t have to really listen to what society has to say about what you should be and who you should be like. Because you’re not feeling influenced by the things around you, you can just make that decision for yourself. I like being able to speak my mind and not feel like somebody’s going to have something better to say, you know?
Because of Girls Inc, I became more outgoing and more willing to try new things. I even signed up for Teen Council, a peer-to-peer sex ed program run by Planned Parenthood. Through the program, I taught sixth graders all the way up to seniors in my local school district, which was really fun. We teach everything from boundaries and consent to healthy relationships, anatomy of genitalia and reproductive parts. We do a little bit of everything. It’s really nice because I also can be a resource for students around me. You know, sometimes it’s really uncomfortable to go talk to an adult and ask them questions about like, “How do I get tested?” or “Is HIV something I should worry about?”, so I’m a really good resource for people to be able to privately message me on social media and be like, “Hey, I heard you do this thing. Can you answer this question for me?” Even if I can’t, I can go to my facilitator and she can answer it for me, which is really nice.
Wow, that’s so cool that you had the confidence and the bravery to do that in front of your peers.
Ha, yeah it’s funny to go from a shy kid to, “Let me tell you all about the penis!” I definitely feel like I wouldn’t have done that if Girls Inc didn’t help me become a stronger human.
If you were looking back and you were talking to another seventh-grader who is maybe a little shy or just doesn’t really know how to kind of get more involved in things, what would you tell her?
I would tell her to step a little bit out of her comfort zone and try something like Girls Inc. I would tell her that it’s such a wonderful experience, even if she only does it for a couple of months or a year, she’s going to feel different and she’ll feel like a better person in the world.
So now that you’ve graduated, what’s next for you? Have you thought about a career you’d like to pursue?
For a really long time, I wanted to be a computer designer or engineer kind of person. Through Girls Inc. I learned in more in detail what exactly computer people do. And I was like, “Oh, that’s not for me.” I’m really glad I was able to understand that, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be paying for that college program and realize much later that it wasn’t for me.
I want to be an English teacher for high schoolers, which is really exciting for me because I finally figured out what I want to do with my life. And this is something I definitely have a passion for. In high school, you connect with your students. I’ve also had a really wonderful set of teachers in my high school experience that were really loving and kind and caring for me. And I’ve seen students that I’ve grown up with in elementary and middle school who were not good students that didn’t really do their work and they didn’t care about their education, but when they met these teachers in high school, they completely changed and now they’re going on and like they have careers already set up and they’re ready to face the world.
I want to be that person for somebody else. I just want to be of service to others… that’s kind of my thing.