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“Do you feel like you’re making a difference?” I was at the Orange County send off party as the father of an incoming freshman asked this question eagerly, expecting an enthusiastic “Yes!” after listening to my description of Eureka! Before I could answer, we were called to hear the freshmen introductions. I’m glad because I don’t think I could have given an honest answer in that moment.

Thinking about the question since then, I think the best answer I could give is, “I hope so.” I hope I have taught my girls something. I hope I have done more than entertain them for four weeks. I don’t know if I will ever get a more concrete answer, so that hope will have to be enough, for now.

I hope they were reminded how smart they are. All the girls who struggled but persevered, who doubted their abilities but succeeded, I hope they remember how fleeting failure can be. I don’t care if that determination is never applied to binary or coding or engineering and design or anything related to STEM ever again. I don’t care if they forget every single thing I taught in STEM class. I do hope that they remember how confusion can become confidence through hard work and collaboration.

I hope they were convinced of their own potential. I hope they realized that they are already leaders in their own right, and that they have the ability to enact change in their community, whether that be their family, their school, or their town. I hope they understand that college is an option for them, and that their future is in their own hands.

There is one thing I hope above all others. If they forget every other thing I have mentioned and everything that I haven’t, I hope they know that I am on their side. I hope that I was able to show them, to tell them, to convince them in any way over four long weeks, that I am and will always be rooting for them.