This week we met the girls we’ll be teaching this summer. Family Fun Fest is a day set up by Girls Inc. for all families to meet the facilitators (us) and to get more information about Eureka! Mostly, though, we just played some of the icebreaker games we had learned the week before with the kids as a chance to start learning their names and getting comfortable. It was fun, but it’s strange to think about how well I will know those strangers by the end of the summer. The promises of empowerment and achievement seem far-fetched when looking at the jumbled group with varying levels of excitement. We went to an art museum in LA this week, and one of the pieces that have stuck with me is Imi Knoebel’s Vivi collection. The white canvases and the plywood conveyed a feeling of readiness, of preparation, of expectancy. That is what this camp signifies. Opportunity.
On Tuesday, we worked with the externship girls, the ones in 11th and 12th grade for whom Girls Inc. has found placements in local companies for the summer. I helped them write their resumes and throughout that process I became increasingly impressed with the level of involvement every single one of them showed in their schools and their community. One girl asked me what she should include in her “Experiences” section and then worried about whether she had anything to write about. I came back to her later to check in, and she was on her fifth entry. The others were similar. It was slightly disorienting hearing them ask about how accomplished I was in high school, since I go to Duke, and then seeing how outmatched I was a year ago compared to them now. It left me wondering if this was a direct product of Girls Inc. and there could be this tangible an effect of years of programming.
I asked, and I found out that very very few girls continue with Girls Inc. in high school, which means the girls I met on Tuesday are incredibly accomplished but their success is unrelated to the curriculum I will be implementing this summer. I guess I am not totally convinced that a few weeks of camp can do any more than teach girls about some cool science. Is it really plausible that I will be able to form relationships, become a role model, and convince a girl of her power in just 20 days? Today I heard a story that reminded me how important it is to try, even without a definite result. A Girls Inc. staff member told us a story about her observations this morning at a co-ed STEM camp. It was the day all the parents were invited, and there was lots of showing off of knowledge and a presentation of awards. What stuck with me was that out of the eight awards presented, all but one were given to boys. The majority of them were related to the incredible projects those students had completed, but that last award was not. It was for “Best Helper.” That is inequality. That story reminded me that even if all I can give the girls this summer is more experience with and a love for STEM, I will be doing what I am able to equalize.