Colleen Guikema thanks her friends and family for who she is today

Colleen Guikema (second from the left) with some of her closest friends and coworkers

Abbie Glass

Colleen Guikema (second from the left) with some of her closest friends and coworkers

Freshman Colleen Guikema always thought she was an introvert; that is until she met her new friend group, which she joined at the start of this year. Now, Colleen knows who she really is: outgoing and a people person.

In middle school, Colleen found that she struggled to break out of her shell; it didn’t matter how much she wanted to. While she still had a solid friend group, she didn’t feel pushed to meet new people. But high school, for most students, is the best time to find who you really are. And, for Colleen, she found her courage through those around her.

“This year I learned to find the best people for me,” Colleen said. “I think I would give that advice to anyone, find the people that you really fit with. I have so much in common with these girls, and we have the same sense of humor, which makes for the best friendships. This year, I’m a lot louder than I used to be—these girls give me the energy to be me and not be scared about that.”

Especially as an underclassman, it’s important to find people who lift you up and make you the best version of yourself. Unfortunately, like the movies, sometimes the high school atmosphere can be toxic or a drag—this isn’t the case for these young girls. 

“Recently I got a job with my friends because I was bored,” Colleen laughed. “I work at the retirement home Sentinel Pointe, and it’s been really different for me. I wouldn’t have imagined myself talking to all of these people who I don’t relate to as much on a daily basis. But my friends really helped me to, again, just be myself, and now we have such great times there.”

While Colleen has felt positive reinforcement from her friends to be the person she’s always wanted to be, Colleen notices how her decisions impact her friend group as well. Originally, it was Colleen’s idea to join the staff at the retirement home, and her friends followed along looking for a good time. But, she knows she wouldn’t have felt comfortable enough without their everyday support.

My entire friend group has really helped each other to just be more outgoing.”

— Colleen Guikema

“My friends and I have gotten to branch out,” Colleen said, “but I’ve also seen different sides of my friends which, honestly, just brings us even closer together still. I’ve barely ever seen my friends be super serious; this is such a change of pace, but we love it because of those changes.”

Colleen has been able to grow extremely close with her peers and now her coworkers, such as Claire Worth, Lauren Dykstra, and Heather Ringel—Colleen is forever grateful for their impact on her life. But it isn’t just these three individuals who have shaped her high school experience thus far.

For Colleen, she’s always belonged to a group of people. She finds comfort in knowing who she can trust and who’s there for her. She’s realized that her new friends have encouraged her growth as a human, but she also thanks her old ones as well.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of people from my grade have changed once we started high school,” Colleen said, “like everyone found their own groups. For example, Abbie Glass lives right next to me pretty much, and since the beginning of this school year, we’ve grown so close. My entire friend group, her included, has really helped each other to just be more outgoing.”

As for the future, Colleen has made up her mind that she could never be employed with a “desk job.” She needs to be face-to-face with others; that’s how she found herself and how she plans to continue. But she’s only realized this from looking back on the past. Colleen used to despise not knowing anyone in a room. She felt lost and a little cast aside. But now, she could make friends in an instant. 

“When I was in eighth-grade, I got put into a gym class where it was all seventh graders,” Colleen said.  “I didn’t know a soul. It was honestly the worst thing ever because I didn’t talk to anybody at all.”

While Colleen’s middle school gym credits are now only in her nightmares, making friends couldn’t be any easier for this social butterfly. While Colleen has recently felt encouraged by her peers, she can never forget who she takes the most influence from growing up: her grandmother. 

“I have a really great relationship with my grandma,” Colleen said. “She’s quite literally the best. I love her so much because for as long as I’ve known her, she’s been crazy outgoing. My siblings and I would go on walks with her, but we’d always be singing. I remember she had us all singing ‘Do-Re-Me’ from The Sound of Music. That’s one of the best memories I have with her.”

Interestingly enough, everything comes full circle for Colleen. Not only does she find inspiration from her grandma, but she also learns on a daily basis how to be social with people of all ages at her workplace. Not only does she find inspiration from old memories with family members, but she also learns on a daily basis how to be outgoing with her friends.

“At the end of the day, I would just say, ‘Go for it,’” Colleen advised. “Just be loud. Trust me: no one is looking that hard, and no one is judging you that much. It’s important to be outgoing—no one will remember what you said or did within the next day, so just be yourself.”