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With tears, hugs, pictures, a cake, the macarena, and the barney trap remix, Eureka! camp came to an end, and with it our time at DukeEngage Orange County. As I hang out late at night with my apartment, singing throwback 2000s songs for the last time, the things that I wish I could I have told the girls, one by one, that I did not have the space for in their yearbooks and did not have the opportunity to in person, come to mind.

To My Girls,

I and the rest of the Girls Inc. team have tried to teach you many things – from engineering to life skills to relationship advice, through curriculum that we spent many hours developing and learning in order to facilitate your classes. I hope you enjoyed those classes, and from them learned a new skill, discovered a new career, got some new information, and in general become more educated.

But in all honesty, it doesn’t matter if you can’t wire up a working circuit tomorrow. It doesn’t matter if the wooden trebuchet is the last thing you’ll ever construct with your hands. It doesn’t matter if you sit in your future physics class and realize you still don’t know the difference between potential and kinetic energy. It doesn’t matter if you’re never able to make a bread rise again. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember what biomedical engineering is or never write another line of code or the next time you step on a yoga mat is at 40 years old. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t come back next year.

What matters is what I hope I taught you. I hope I taught you that you can have both beauty AND brains. That college is not just for the white and the male, but for the immigrant, the poor, the African and Asian, and the female. I hope I showed you through my actions, my personality, and my clothes that you can be both smart and stylish, clever and cute, strong and emotional, caring and calm, honest and straightforward and respectful, at the same time. I hope I taught you that if Duke is possible for me, then Stanford is definitely possible for you. I hope I taught you that your dreams and goals are valid, that your dream of becoming a tattoo artist is just as valid as her dream of becoming a structural engineer. I hope I taught you that you’re not done growing, that you will change. I hope I taught you that even when you feel that there is no one agreeing with you in the future, there is at least one adult, me, that will be rooting for you. I hope I taught you that you can be your best self, while being yourself.

And I wish I could’ve told you what you taught me. The details of how, when, and why, I have yet to process and fully reflect on. Because of you, I am a better teacher, I know my teen bible study will notice a difference. I am a better friend.  I have become more confident, yet more humble. I listen. I care. And never again will I look down on age.

So thank you.