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