We are halfway through the PFO year and I wanted to share about the journey so far, what I’ve learned, and how PFO has impacted me. I have had the wonderful opportunity of being exposed to such a welcoming environment, that comfortably allows me to experiment with my comfort zone. This year I have stepped into a leadership position as a Small Group Leader. It’s taught me a lot about not only what a leader is, but what that looks like for me, since every individual is different. Generally, I avoid speaking in front of large groups because I’ve never really been confident that what I had to say was important enough that everyone in the entire room needed to hear it. That changed when it was my turn to plan and execute a Lifetalk, which is a teen-led life lesson ranging from things such as “The Science of Gratitude” to “Thoughts to Feelings, to Action”. The Small Group Leaders were paired off and given a topic, mine specifically was “You are not your story”. We had several meetings with Jen, our executive director, and brainstormed what this was going to look like and we presented it to the other Small Group Leaders, who gave us lots of feedback and constructive criticism. I distinctly remember being so nervous that I was shaking and my face was doing its little twitch thing it does. The support of the other Small Group Leaders and my partner, Caleb, was a nice reassuring push. Ultimately, we gave an awesome, empowering Lifetalk and my nerves proved to be for nothing. This was an expansive experience for me, which I’ve already utilized outside of PFO. I had a large Graduation Project, where an oral presentation was necessary. By using the same techniques, in regards to planning, that I used while creating the Lifetalk, I made a powerful speech, consequently improving my confidence and making the actual presentation a lot less intimidating. I feel more comfortable being myself. Everyone within PFO is so open, accepting, and diverse. This has helped me SO much by realizing that there are always people who are going to accept me for being my 100% self. Although this sounds like a completely obvious fact, it has always been hard to stay authentic in every circumstance. I have also raised my awareness about the thoughts I have and my decision to accept or reject them, since they manifest themselves physically through my actions. This has had a very positive impact on my life, especially since senior year is a important year in regards to college applications and other pretty drastic life decisions. I recognize when I am in a particularly negative mood and know what needs to be done to come back up to my usual place, energy wise. This isn’t something that is just selective to myself, I also notice it in others and have a better knowledge and awareness of the individuals around me. This definitely makes a difference as a leader and being able to gauge the group I’m apart of and ensure that everyone is doing well. I’ve had a great year so far and I’m really looking forward to the remainder of the year. Thanks for following me thus far on my journey, be sure to stay tuned for more exciting realizations!