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As the saying goes, “Don’t judge someone unless you walk a mile in their shoes.” Although I’ve heard this proverb at least a million times in my lifetime, I have to admit, I have never truly abided by it…until now.

This past Friday, the girls and staff all participated in “Cross the Line,” a tear-jerking activity which defies any and all notions of the most important lesson I learned as a child, to mind my own business. The activity’s rules are as follows: everyone starts behind the line. If the statement applies to you, cross the line. Once the original line and the new line have examined each other, the new line rejoins the old line. From there, the cycle repeats. As one can imagine, the statements asserted got deeper and more personal as time progressed.

During the first week of camp, I created my own opinions about each young girl I encountered – whether it be that she was extremely bright or that she was always on her phone in class, so she didn’t care about her education or even that she must not have any siblings because she acts like a spoiled brat. As a participant of “Cross the Line” and looking at each student who had and had not crossed the line during different assertions, some of my conclusions about the girls were accurate. However, majority of my assumptions were indeed incorrect.

What shocked me the most about participating in “Cross the Line” was the amount of trauma a lot of the girls have experienced. Some have deceased siblings and/or parents. Others have been homeless, while some girls were adopted. Many have thought of suicide, and one has even had an abortion. The saddest part about this is that not one of the girls I work with are 16 yet (not that 16 is the appropriate age to experience trauma, but is the age of pre-adulthood and maturation). This says a lot about their upbringings as well as the environments these girls have been exposed to.

Learning these girls’ backgrounds made me look at them in a new, appreciative way. Yes, the girls can be inattentive or aloof; however, now that I have a better understanding of where they come from, I am more empathetic.

All in all, as Eureka! is steadily coming to an end, I am forming genuine relationships with the girls and admire them even more for being strong, smart, and bold young women.