By: Khristina R.
While completing an internship this past summer in New York City, I decided to spend my free time volunteering with Girls Inc. of New York City, which is an organization that promotes gender equality, involvement in one’s community, and success in academics. Seeing that it would take me about an hour to get from where I was living in the Bronx to the school in Brooklyn where Girls Inc. was located, I applied to be a field trip helper instead of a classroom volunteer because arriving at 12:00pm would be easier for me than arriving at 8:00 am, especially because I’m not a morning person. Also, I found the field trip position to be more interesting than the classroom position. I figured that during the trips I would get a better opportunity to talk to the girls one-on-one, which was a possibility that excited me.
Since I’m someone who feels like a kid most of the time, I thought I’d have a lot to talk about with the girls. However, I was still pretty nervous when it came time for the volunteer training as I have very little experience working with children, teenagers, and the inbetweeners (aka middle schoolers). I wasn’t exactly sure how it would go or if I would even be good at the job. So during the training, when seemingly innocent topics of discussion were put on the try-to-avoid conversation list, I became even more nervous.
I thought, “there goes my plan!” when the volunteer coordinators told us to ditch topics such as celebrity crushes, fashion choices, and gossip with friends. Instead we were supposed to talk about favorite school subjects, future career choices, and applying to college. The point was to stop the girls from feeling subconsciously pressured into being interested in only things that are typically labeled as girly. By talking to them about subjects relating to success in school, career goals, etc., we were encouraging them to believe in themselves, to know that they can accomplish anything, and to be strong, smart, and bold, which is the motto of Girls Inc.
As mentioned above I was a bit shocked at first to hear that I wasn’t supposed to talk to the girls about how cool their boots were, for example, but after contemplating the volunteer coordinators suggestions, I got it. It is important to realize, or at least consider, that the topics we choose to talk about with girls may influence their choices when it comes to hobbies, career choices, or majors to pick in college. With our words we can either empower them to think outside of the box or we can close the box tighter around them. No matter which way we use it, our language has an impact.