Colorado G.I.R.L.: Meredith Garofalo

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but my career has taken me all across the country! When I was just three-years-old, my mom told me her story of surviving the tornado Super Outbreak of 1974 and it was at that moment I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I decided I wanted to be a meteorologist on TV and keep people informed and safe from threatening and dangerous weather.

I made my first “weather report” on a Fischer Price tape recorder and began reading books and watching any movie or show that I could on tornadoes and severe storms. I was the first female weather anchor on our high school morning show and then went to Valparaiso University in Northwest Indiana to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Meteorology. While in college, I joined the Kappa Delta Sorority – Zeta Psi chapter and became very involved with philanthropy and was also able to hold a leadership position. It reminded me a lot of Girl Scouts being able to give back and make a difference in the lives of others while having fun with my girlfriends.

I began my television career as an intern at WGN-TV in Chicago and then worked for local stations in Rapid City, SD, Sarasota, FL, and Santa Barbara, CA before moving to Denver to work for WeatherNation, a national weather TV network. I am also a Certified Broadcast Meteorologist by the American Meteorological Society, a mark of professional distinction and recognition in my field. I’ve had adventures with my career not just presenting the weather on TV, but also as a reporter in the field covering satellite launches, tropical storms, wildfires, and even learned how to paraglide and surf! You can read a little more about what I’ve accomplished in my station bio!

When I’m not at work, you’ll find me out hiking, at a Barre3 class, cheering on our local sports teams, or singing my heart out! I’ve performed our national anthem more than 100 times so far, including at a Denver Broncos game and the National Western Stock Show earlier this year! In 2013, I played one of my favorite roles as Rizzo in “Grease” for a local theater production in Florida. I also love to dance and have competed in two local Dancing with the Stars competitions, taking first place in 2016 with a Foxtrot routine.

When in your life/career have you been a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

I have had a lot of obstacles in my life I’ve had to overcome to get where I am today. When I was in elementary and middle school, I was bullied by many of my peers for being “different” because of the way I looked and my early dream of being a meteorologist.  It was quite depressing, and I spent many nights crying myself to sleep and wondering what was wrong with me because of what others thought. I was the victim of verbal and emotional abuse, and so many times I found my safe place at the library or at home writing in my journal. I was very thankful also for my Girl Scout troops during those years, because it was there that I had other girls who would help build back up my self-esteem and I was able to do volunteer work and make a difference bringing positivity to the lives of others.

My teachers constantly reminded me every day that I was so much more than what the other kids thought, and I really think that also helped me not be afraid to be a G.I.R.L. and prove the “haters” wrong.  Every year that passed through senior year, I became more of a go-getter because I stayed at the top of my class with my grades, joined the band, choir, and sports where I secured solos and even captain positions, and won academic and talent achievement awards. I graduated high school an accomplished G.I.R.L. with a 4.0 GPA, a college acceptance, accolades for my music and athletic performances, and a part-time job.

I definitely was a G.I.R.L throughout my college years, working part-time, passing all my classes, and also focusing on getting my dream job. The field I was going into was male-dominated, and it was very challenging with a curriculum that included lots of math and science. I had to work hard at many classes as it did not come as easy to me as my peers, and I even had one professor freshman year tell me to drop the major and find another focus because she didn’t think I’d be able to make it with my grades. I failed some of my tests and I had to have a tutor help me with some classes, but never once did I give up. I continued to focus on what I wanted and knew what I was going to achieve, and by my senior year I had landed one of the best internships and had earned the grades I needed to officially become a meteorologist! Walking across that stage at graduation was one of the best moments of my life, and it made every single struggle and the low moment worth it!

What does it mean to “take the lead?”

When you take the lead, you are doing it with the best interest of everyone involved. A leader does not trample over people or has the mindset that he/she is better than everyone else. A leader is humble and shows confidence and passion for what needs to be accomplished. When you take the lead, you take responsibility for making sure everyone who is following will also succeed with you. You are setting a positive example for everyone around you, and must never be afraid to fail…because sometimes that will be the first outcome. I was fired from my job before, rejected for countless opportunities because they didn’t think I had what it would take, and even was told to just give up. When you take the lead, you NEVER, EVER let the disappointment or set-backs end the journey…you keep moving forward with your head high and your eye on the prize. Because when you take the lead, eventually, you will get to where you need to be…just not always within the time frame you want.

Why is it important for girls and women to “take the lead?

As women, we have come a long way when it comes to holding leadership and management positions, but we can’t stop here. When I graduated from college, I was the only female in my class to become an on-air meteorologist and at my first two stations, was the only full-time woman on our weather team. I still see the low representation of women in STEM fields, and while there are more in higher roles, there’s so much more room to grow those numbers. Never let yourself be silenced for being you or because someone else doubts what you are capable of. Keep pushing forward for what YOU want because, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. Our youth is our future, and need to take the lead as soon as possible. Dream big, set your goals, and as Kate Winslet once said, “You need to be the leading lady in your own life!”

What has helped you achieve success?

I was recently awarded the Valparaiso University Alumni Association “Decade Achievement Award” for everything I have accomplished since I graduated ten years ago, and it really made me look back at how I was able to succeed in all my endeavors. Honestly, I really do think it was always believing in myself and refusing to give up even during the toughest times of my life. I had to work hard for every single thing that I have today from my career to my personal achievements, I rarely had things fall into my lap or easily handed to me. But I am so grateful now for that because looking back it only made me stronger, more confident, and more determined. I made a list in high school of what I wanted to accomplish over the next 25 years and I’m proud to say that I’ve checked almost every goal off that list. Despite the circumstance and obstacles, I never stopped believing in the dreams of that young curly haired girl with glasses. I could not have done it without the love and support from my family, future husband, friends, teachers, colleagues, and mentors over the years that never stopped believing also. You can’t set a time limit on your life of when you want things to be done, you just need to trust yourself and it will always fall into place in the end.

Were you a Girl Scout? If so, tell us about your experience and what is the most important thing Girl Scouts taught you?

I’m proud to say I started as a Daisy and continued all the way through high school as a Girl Scout Senior! It was a wonderful experience and as I mentioned earlier, it truly played a key role in helping me during some of my hardest times. My mother was my troop leader for most of those years, and not only did we get to grow our bond and relationship in a special way, I made some amazing friendships! My favorite memory was getting the opportunity to go to a local TV station with our troop and getting to be on one of the shows…it really helped excite me even more about what I wanted to be when I grew up! I enjoyed the camping trips, earning different badges, the songs we sang as a troop, and the opportunities we had volunteering in the community, especially at the nursing homes around Christmas. Being a Girl Scout taught me the importance of not just being kind to others, but also yourself. It taught me to be a leader, and a positive role model for everyone around you. I continue to live by our Girl Scout motto — “On my honor, I will try, to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout law” every single day, and hope to continue to motivate, inspire and build confidence in young women both here in Denver and across this country. We only get one chance at life, and need to give back as much as we are given while we are here.

Girl Scouts of Colorado