The Elements of Betties: Meet “G”

G is fire. G is the most passionate, the most fierce, the most (outwardly) confident young woman I have ever worked with. G is a natural leader. G will stick by you and defend you, so long as you’re a true friend who won’t talk behind her back.

G knows who her true friends are.

G is also one of the most headstrong, most frustrating young woman I have ever worked with.

She sends you on an emotional roller coaster. You want to protect her and shield her from the struggles she faces constantly, you want to tell her it’s ok to still be a child.

You also realize that she is already grown up in so many ways. She had to grow up early to learn how to defend herself. She has far surpassed your capabilities of understanding the world and how it works when you were her age.

G is smart. When she does well in school she does really well. You think G could go to college if she really wanted to; you’re worried she might not.

That’s not what’s modeled for her at home.

G can bring a group together and tear a group apart. She knows how to guide her fellow classmates to focus and respect the person in charge. She also knows she has the power to turn them away from you. She can create order and chaos.

You want G on your side if you’re going to get anything done.

G climbs to the top of the rock wall up the hardest path, learns skateboard tricks with ease, and can pick up any dance routine.

G is a Betty. She does whatever she sets her mind to, she is not scared to try new things, and she is a deeply caring friend. She’s working hard to overcome the challenges life has presented her, sometimes she slips and reacts in a way that is easy for her, but other moments she shines and sparkles, and lets the world know that she means business.

G is fire.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360 

A Story of Resilience and Determination

Zoom! A girl skated by me, her arms stretched out like an eagle, a triumphant smile on her face. To the left of me another girl flipped over her board with her feet, jumped, and landed perfectly balanced on the skateboard. A minute later a third girl skated by and exclaimed, “I love going fast!” Her hijab flapped behind her in the wind created by her speed.

My face hurt from smiling. These young women were doing so well. I couldn’t even tell that twenty minutes ago most of them had never ridden a skateboard.

A moment later I heard a crash and saw a girl tumble. As a person trusted with the safety of these young women, momentary panic set in. I started to move towards the girl to make sure she was okay, but saw all the other young women had jumped off their boards and were running towards her.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt?” they asked, helping her to her feet.

“I’m fine – I just got my wheel caught on a rock,” she exclaimed, dusting herself off.

“Do you want to go sit for a while? Take a break?” The other girls asked, looking genuinely concerned.

“No, let’s go skate over there,” she beamed, hopping back on her board.

I felt my heart swell with pride. In my experience as an educator, I had never seen a group of middle school aged children show such genuine concern for another peer, let alone offer to sacrifice the good time they were having in favor of making sure their friend was alright.

I also felt pride because the girl who had fallen jumped back on her board, completely unafraid to fall again.

Three more young women would fall throughout the class, including myself. Each time every girl would hop off her board, rush over to check on their friend, and then encourage one another to give it another try. While I was impressed with how easily they picked up the sport, I was even more impressed by the support they showed one another.

Middle school is a confusing time—it’s a time when girls begin to process messages spread by the media that women are shallow, careless, and unsupportive of one another. More often than not middle school girls view their peers as people who will tear them down instead of lift them up. What I saw this day impressed me beyond words, because already I was seeing what I was hoping to help create: a space for girls to lift one another up, to support one another, to try new things, and to feel invincible.

I think this is the true magic of Betties360.

By Hannah Nolan, Program Coordinator and After-School Instructor for Betties360