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As week three of Eureka comes to an end, all I feel is disappointment that our time with these girls is coming to an end. After this week in particular, I have come to the harsh realization that these young students we teach have experienced a lot of life despite their limited years on this earth.


The girls participated in a cross-the-line activity at the end of week two where I watched girls of all ages cross the line for the loss of parents and the loss of siblings, having incarcerated guardians, having family members struggle with substance abuse, feeling inadequate, depressed, and having thoughts of suicide or self-harm. This activity left me heartbroken and even feeling guilty that I did not give some of the girls I had been teaching the benefit of the doubt when it came to their attitude or behavior, but as a majority of the students cried and hugged one another I knew that the purpose of cross-the-line—to better understand each other—had been effective.


Earlier this week Didi Hirsch, a mental health service provider and suicide prevention organization, came in to speak to the students about the warning signs of a friend or loved one at risk and what to say or do in this situation. Workshop is the last hour of the eight-hour camp day, and usually is a female speaker discussing her occupation, bonding or empathy workshops, or presentations from other organizations and the students are expected to stay the whole time, listen, ask questions, and be respectful to the presenter.


This day was different though; as soon as some of the girls walked in and saw the word “suicide” projected on the screen their faces became visibly uncomfortable and some immediately asked staff if they could sit out. As the presentation continued, more and more students approached staff and asked us if they could sit out.


Yet again I was reminded of just how much these girls have experienced in their lives but more so, I gained an immense amount of respect and pride for their ability to show up every day at a STEM camp, participate, and be fully present in this setting. Although we work with young teenagers, I can confidently say that these students are some of the strongest and bravest women I have had the pleasure to know. And although the thought of leaving and not seeing them again after this Friday is unimaginable as of right now, I find comfort in knowing that so many of them are finding connections and relationships among themselves through their common past experiences. I just hope they look back on Eureka and remember it as a happy and even an empowering time for them.