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Although I’ve been in Orange County for two weeks now, it feels like no time has passed. This past week especially has flown by as all our energy was focused on reviewing curriculum for camp and preparing for Family Fun Fest. By the end of the week, I was left with marker ink all over my hands, a bad sunburn, and even more excitement for camp to start.

Instead of heading to Girls Inc. on Tuesday morning, we spent our day at CSUF Irvine with the Externship program, which is a summer intensive targeted at 11th and 12th grade girls interested in building leadership and career-focused skills. As a cohort, we were tasked with teaching the girls about how to pitch an idea to their supervisor as well as assist in resume building and interview prep. Working with the externs was both inspiring and fulfilling; many of the girls were in the middle of college applications and were eager to ask about applying to college and our experiences as Duke students.

Many of the girls asked about what college is like as a Computer Science major and I could see the nerves on their faces as they wondered if they were smart enough or if their college applications were strong enough. I remember looking at their resumes both confused and amazed; I was shocked to see that these girls were worried about getting into college when their resumes were much more extensive than mine. I realized that no matter how much coding experience these girls had or how many school clubs they were involved in, many lacked the proper role models and resources to successfully apply to college. I wasn’t at this program to teach the girls how to put together a resume, rather I was there to encourage and support them as they develop critical life skills.

I brought what I learned from our day with the externs to the rest of the week, which was all about preparing for Family Fun Fest. We spent Thursday and Friday at Girls Inc. creating posters, perfecting activities, and transforming the center into a space ready for the families of our campers. When Saturday finally came, I was exhausted from the long week, but energized as I was excited to meet all the campers. The day was filled with fun and learning, and talking to the campers eased many of the nerves I originally felt. Watching the girls hug their friends from last summer and participate in activities reminded me of the power of summer camp and gave me the boost I needed to get through the next week of preparations.