At Girls Inc., we inspire girls to become the leaders of tomorrow. One particular space where leaders are being shaped is our Eureka! Teen Achievement program. As girls grow throughout the five year program, they get to explore their passions, make connections, and develop both professional and life skills through paid internships.
One Eureka! intern named Rebecca has found her voice in the past year with the help of Girls Inc. This month, we’ve empowered her with the platform to share her story with you today. Read on to hear Rebecca’s story of finding her voice in her own words:
I have always struggled to find my voice. I just joined Girls Inc. last school year and from the moment they met me, they have encouraged me and nourished me to be who I am today.
While I still have much more to learn and plenty room to grow, I know that Girls Inc. will stand by me and help me become more like the strong woman I already am.
When I joined Girls Inc. at the beginning of last school year, there was so much going on. It was my first year of high school and it was the first year schools were fully becoming traditional again (at least at my school), so there was a lot of change. My father got diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, my sister was in therapy trying to figure out what exactly was causing her anxiety, and my mother was all over the place with her adult ADD — making the beginning of ninth grade an adventure wherever I turned.
At the same time, I had a big assignment to worry about. My school asked us to research a need in our school, neighborhood, community and to identify solutions to this need. I was completely lost and had no idea what I should be doing.
As I got more involved with Girls Inc. events, I got to know the staff and the girls really well. Each Saturday event was so much fun, but also allowed us to bond and talk about the stresses of school. I didn’t know many girls from my school and everyone had different experiences than me, but through conversations I was able to realize that we all had something in common: we all struggled with our classroom environment.
School work was stressful on its own, but the hardest part was actually getting the work done at school. The common problem was that there were always distractions at school – whether you are neurodivergent or not, bells & lights buzzing or flickering can be quite a distraction. The more people I talked to, the more problems with the classroom environment I was able to find. That was it! That was going to be my big project.
At first, I wasn’t sure what I could do. I could yell to the rooftops that learning isn’t fair and that fluorescent lights are bad, but that wouldn’t do me any good and it certainly wouldn’t do my community any good either. Feeling defeated, I returned to another Saturday school year event at Girls Inc.
That day, what the chosen speaker had to say really spoke to me. She came to Girls Inc. to speak on what she was passionate about and encouraged us to do the same. She taught us about advocacy and how no matter what age we were, we could make a difference.
Inspired by her words, I decided to take the research I had done and create a video to send to the school board using my research. I found facts and studies on learning showing that with the right environment those that are neurodivergent don’t only excel, but where they would normally fall behind they would push past limits in learning. Even that wasn’t enough though. I gathered information from students at my school, girls that I knew from Girls Inc. and even created a poll online to see what issues caused students to stop learning.
This process opened my eyes to a whole new world. I was walking through life looking at other people’s struggles as a burden to me and my learning. Sure I didn’t quite like the bells either, but meeting girls at Girls Inc. who were neurodivergent allowed me to see school through their perspective. I didn’t realize the fidgeting from the person next to me was as necessary to them as it was distracting to me. But upon further research, I also saw how easily that necessary fidgeting could have been prevented and avoided.
Once I had learned the problems, I found solutions. Fluorescent lights are too loud and bright? Replace them with LED lights. School Bells are too loud and can be overstimulating? Turn off the bells or replace them with soft music over the intercom. Too fidgety? There are fidget foot bands on all the desks so you can fidget without distracting others or yourself. If there was a problem I did my best to find a solution, but I encouraged my school board to do their own research and find their own solutions, and I encourage you to do the same!
At the end of the school year we are told that the project is over, but I couldn’t let that be. And with your help, my project will have only just begun!
After sharing my video with Mrs. Amy, she helped me set a meeting with Dr. Connie in order to grow my project further. It was then that I realized that my project could really help people. It wasn’t just something that I researched, but it was something that affected my friends.
Girls Inc. helped me find my voice and I know with their help I will never lose it. I have attached the link to my community project video below if you would like to see my research and learn more about my cause.
My Community Project link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOMHaak0qVM
This article was featured in the July 2022 issue of the Bold Bulletin, our monthly e-newsletter. For more stories like this in your inbox, subscribe below!