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My soft voice, almost too soft, crept up and out of my throat only to be swiftly drowned out by the whistling sound of the water washing down over me. As a naive and timid adolescent, I limited my singing to the secluded space of my shower, where I was never to be heard by the callous children that walked the hallways of my middle school. I often sought to fit in, thwarting my voice from reaching its full potential. Instead of being me, I often observed those around me: how they talked, how they handled situations, and how they treated one another. With this I began to see everyone and everything in a different light. That’s when it hit me hard, like the sharp sting of a slap in the face screaming at me to wake up.

I realized that suppressing who I was on the inside was no longer an option and that I had to take every opportunity that came my way to make the independent, strong-willed, and compassionate Jaime Lee known. I immediately began to participate in organizations and clubs such as Student Council, Mock Trial, and Project Humanitarian Involvement to get my voice heard, ultimately in a positive way.

Because of my acquired assertiveness to fight for both myself and the students who were afraid to speak up, my presence on Student Council has been recognized and highly valued by my peers and principal. This has allowed not only myself to grow over the past few years, but my voice as well. Emerging and finding my own positive voice has led me to sing along to every song playing on the radio, no matter who is around.

Being able to speak up to my classmates soon became a breeze, but large audiences were not my forte. However, this all changed when I attended the Massachusetts Girl’s State program in June, 2011. At Girl’s State I was surrounded by a group of compelling, individualistic women who gave me the audacity to let my voice be heard by providing me the perfect opportunity to do so; the Girl’s State Talent Show.

There I was, standing on the stage alone, in front of hundreds of people. I was doing what I never thought I would do in a million years, but what I knew I had earned the right to do. I gripped my microphone tightly as I explained to the girls that I was done playing it safe and doing the norm. I told them I was going to go out of the box and do something crazy by singing the song “Listen” by Beyonce. As my newfound, powerful voice began to unleash and the lyrics “The time has come for my dreams to be heard. They will not be pushed aside or turned” flew up and out of my throat, they were subsequently drowned out, this time not by the whistling sound of water, but by the crowd that stood before me cheering.