June of 2009, my whole world and all that I knew was completely changed. I had finished my last day of 3rd grade at Brown Elementary and moved to the rural county of Madison County. Where I had grown up it was all Hispanic; it was actually very rare if there were more than three white kids in a class. Once I moved to Spring Creek, I realized that it was the complete opposite. My first day at Hot Springs Elementary was very odd. I walked in and realized that I was the only Hispanic person in the entire class. At Hot Springs, it is so tiny that there was only one class per grade; therefore, I was the only Hispanic person in the entire 4th grade class. As the only person with a different ethnicity, I was looked at weirdly and wasn’t approached until Alexis, who is also an intern, talked to me. We became very good friends, and she helped me talk to the others. Soon I developed my friend group, and I didn’t feel as different. I’m sure that there were those who didn’t talk to me because I was different, but I didn’t mind.
Growing up, I was still much different than others. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or have boyfriends while I was in middle school. It felt so odd because everyone else got to do those things, and I didn’t. Coming to PAGE during this first session, not much has changed. All the girls talk about the cute boys in their grades, who they’ve dated, and their first kisses. I would laugh because I find it amusing how much they care about boys. But when one girl said, “boys are the most important thing to girls,” it kind of alarmed me. I didn’t want them thinking that depending on a boyfriend is more important than their education. I constantly reminded them over time that they shouldn’t prioritize dating over learning.
On the last Thursday of the first summer session, we were showing all the girls’ digital stories. One of the girls mentioned in her story the importance of being more focused on learning than boys. It made me so happy to see that I was able to help impact even just one girl to see what in life is truly worth fighting for.
If you would have told me in 2010 that I would be a high school intern for the PAGE — Partnership for Appalachian Girls’ Education — program I would’ve thought you were crazy. I was among the first group of girls who entered the PAGE program, but it was called The Spring Creek Literacy Project then. We had maybe seven girls and three Duke University interns. I have done PAGE all four years you can do. PAGE has opened so many opportunities for me, such as getting the chance to work with such an amazing group of people and it not feel like work at all. The first day of PAGE I was nervous to meet all of the girls because we had no clue who each other were, but as time went on I grew to love the girls and think of them as my little sisters. All of the girls have grown so much in the three weeks we had them. They learned how to respect others’ time, to talk, and to express how they were feeling. They learned about friendship and life, and now they all share a special place in my heart. I honestly could not imagine spending my summer any differently than what I am doing right now.
Middle school girls are in that point of their life where everything is changing. During this time, young girls are searching for themselves and experiencing new social skills. Over the past three weeks, I have met remarkable young women who have strong minds and are eager to learn new things. Each of the girls have their own unique characteristics. In such a short time, the girls learned about friendships and being themselves. Not only did the girls learn new skills, but they taught me it’s okay to relax and have fun. There have been many opportunities opened for me through PAGE. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in an educational initiative before I become a teacher.