Just a Girl
My name is Aleena Valdez, I am a 12 year old business owner and founder of the Girls For Progress Conference happening Saturday August 27 in Phoenix AZ. I have found that through both my business and personal life I have heard the word “JUST” over and over again. The definition of just that I have experienced the most when people look at me is the adverb definition that shows as
simply; only; no more than.
“they were just interested in making money”
only, merely, simply, but, nothing but, no more than
“she’s just a child”
This definition shows implied restrictions or limits. The word just has can have both negative and positive implications. Some people have chosen not to take me serious because I am just a girl, or just a kid. On the other hand, people have been surprised by some of the things I do and say, wow she is just a girl, or just a kid.
One of my favorite sports is football. I love watching football, and even love playing football. I play in a coed flag football league, and for the past 2 seasons have been the only girl my team. Along with the only girl on my team, there are very few girls in my division on other teams. I have found that it has taken me much longer to prove my worth to the team. I find that I am not always taken serious because I am “Just A Girl”. During a game after the play was finished the opposing quarterback told one of his players that he needed to run faster because I was catching up to him and I shouldn’t be able to cover him because I am “Just A Girl”. I play cornerback and safety, and found that at the beginning of the game, the opposing teams test me. They see a girl back there and immediately want to pass the ball to my zone, or person that I am covering. This usually only lasts a few times, as I am usually able to shut them down. People are often surprised, parents and coaches are often surprised which is a good feeling. I have the ability to go out on Saturdays for games, and show everyone that I am not “Just A Girl”. I get to show them that I am a cornerback, safety, receiver, and once in a while a quarterback.
As much as I want to be accepted by everyone as not Just A Girl on the football field. I have lost sight that other girls are trying to do the same thing. There was a game that I played in, and the other team had a girl on their team as well. There was this pitting that happened between me and the other girls by both teams to try to prove who had the better girl. I went from trying to be the best player on the field, best cornerback, safety, or receiver to being the best girl on the field. During the game I kept feeding into this hype, and this pitting of her against me, that I lost sight of myself and my goals. I lost sight that the girl on the other team probably faces and faced the same obstacles that I do.
Girls have proven that they are strong and can do amazing things. Take Malala Yousafzai. Malala is a 19 year old woman, who spoke up for girls rights to get an education. This was almost at the expense of her life as she was shot for speaking out about that injustice. Malala has been featured in Time Magazines 100 most influential people in the world 3 times all before she was 19. She is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and the youngest to receive the award.
I guess this is where I put a bow on everything and wrap it all up. There are always going to be people that say you can or can’t do something because you are “Just A Girl”. There are also going to be times when you get into a competition trying to become “The Best Girl”. What is important is that you do not let the people who say you can’t do something determine what you can or can’t do. It is also important to realize that there are several girls out there who are trying to break into new arenas and try new things just as you may be. Do not discount them and their efforts trying to achieve your goals. We need to be supportive of each other because once we can break into a new area, it opens doors for many other girls to do the same thing. Perceptions of girls need to shift from what society says we are “just” to what we can and will be. Please believe me that for every Malala out there doing great things, there is an Aleena out there who wants to do great things. These perceptions are not only outside perceptions, but also perceptions how we view or think of ourselves. We cannot place limits on ourselves and what we are capable of doing. I may be a girl, but I refuse to be “Just a Girl”. I am Aleena Valdez, I am a student, I am a sister and daughter, I am an entrepreneur, I am a CEO, and I am an athlete. Most of all I am what the future looks like. I have high expectations for myself, and know that I need to continue to grow and challenge norms and expectations in order to not be “Just A Girl”
I hope you can join us on Saturday August 27 for the first annual Girls For Progress Conference.