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(This blog is from the Summer of 2016.)

“But what do we do if no one at school cares if we’re being bullied?” one of the 7th grade Girls Inc. girls asked me, as I realized that very few of the answers to their questions were included in the curriculum notes. It’s really easy to walk into a room with a plan, or even to walk into an entire month with a plan- but it’s even easier for that plan to get away from you. I told her that if the school officials weren’t acting, then to tell a parent, but I could immediately tell that it was not the answer she wanted to hear. These girls are smart, and even though they are only tiny soon-to-be adults, many of them have real problems and have been through really serious situations and the answers to their problems aren’t always so clear.

One of the activities that moved me the most was in my 7th grade Living Safe and Strong class. I had them put their heads down and raise their hand if they felt that a statement applied to them. Every single girl in the class raised their hand when I stated, “I have been bullied”. Again, when I stated, “I have had my heart broken.” And almost every girl raised her hand when I said, “I have been a bully at least once”. I remember how hard it was in middle school to know who I was and to know who my friends were, and those feelings came rushing back. The girls expressed how troubling it was to know what to do when one friend was bullying another friend. They described how hard it could be to both fit in, yet still be yourself and do what is right all the time.

As each day goes by in camp I know that I am getting closer to the girls and as they open up and I see how silly and innocent they can be, but I also can imagine the hard roads that lay ahead for many of these girls and I keep thinking about The Catcher in the Rye. The protagonist talks children running in the rye field and says all he wants to do is catch them, and keep them young and safe and protected from all of the troubles and dangers that come with being an adult. Even though many of them have already experienced troubles, and they are strong, I wish that they didn’t have to be so strong. I keep wishing I could catch them and keep them in this age forever so I wouldn’t have to worry about them. I wish I could rescue them and they wouldn’t have to have broken hearts or bullies. However, I realize the best thing I can do for the girls and for myself is to be the best role model I can for them, and hope that they will continue to grow and continue to be smart, strong, and bold.