Throughout my internship here at Columbia I have served as a Resident Advisor to 12-14 high school girls per session (there are two sessions). During both sessions I have enforced the rules, attended to their physical and emotional needs, and also, luckily, become friends with a couple of them. Even though it’s been a couple of years since I was a teenager, I do remember some of the struggles that come along with puberty, high school and navigating this world as a young person. My students are literally in one of the most definitive periods of their lives, and I know that my words, actions and advice could go a long way in how they turn out.
As a result, getting to know my students has become one of my favorite things about my internship. In fact, one of my favorite moments happened last week or so, when one of my students spent about 15-20 minutes just talking to me. We started off with a discussion of how she liked her genetics class, which she found challenging but also invigorating (which is prone to happen with college courses). She expressed to me that she now realized, by doing this program, that she loved science and wanted to pursue it as a major in college. She also commented on how, over the past couple of months, she had been seriously thinking about herself as a person. She was putting more thought into her hobbies, values and behaviors and changing them where she felt necessary.
I found it so amazing that she had taken so much time to be introspective and think about the kind of person she wanted to be, and the kind of person she didn’t. Conversations like that remind me of how incredible and intelligent high school students often are, and why it’s so important to offer programs like the one I intern in, to give them a chance to achieve the growth needed to become informed adult citizens in the world.