Saturday, January 17, 2009

Alabama Girls

I finished my week in Alabama, and here in a few days I'll post a wrap-up, hopefully with some pictures. I'm home tonight for a grand total of 24hrs, and I fly out to Singapore tomorrow.

My sleep schedule is so screwy now - last Sunday, I stayed up all night and left for the airport at 4:30 in the morning. During the week, my partner and I had to get up before 6 most mornings in order to get to the various schools 45min before first period. We finished up Friday by 1pm, and I was so tired I crashed on my hotel bed for a couple hours. Then I couldn't get to sleep that night, and we had to leave for the airport home by 3am, so I didn't sleep that night either. So I slept on the plane and all day today, and I'm bright-eyed now at 2:30 a.m. But hey, maybe I'm all set for Singapore time! I've managed to pre-jet lag myself!

But you know, what other time in life am I going to be able to set my own sleep schedule like this? I don't have anybody dependent on me, and as long as I get all my obligations done and am on time for all my responsibilities, I can just go to bed whenever I happen to be tired. How cool is that!

What I wanted to write on this evening is the girls we talked to this week. We talked to all the girls in grades 9-12 at eight different schools in our area of Alabama. Now, I was homeschooled, so my experience with public schools is pretty darn limited. The schools we went to varied quite a lot - we went to the biggest one in the county, a little bitty one with no white students, the one where the rich parents send their kids, and others all across the spectrum. We presented in libraries, auditoriums, band rooms, and one place on stage. The principals and teachers all seemed genuinely glad to see us, and always accommodated us with a projector and anything else we needed.

But it's the girls I am going to remember most, I think. Well, I can't possibly forget the sweet tea and BBQ, but hey:

- There was the one girl that started laughing at me when I said I liked Star Trek, giggling away in the back row. Hey now! Don't be dissin' the nerd's holy grail!

- The 10th grader who said that she wanted to grow up to cure cancer, then looked shyly away and told us nobody thinks she can do it. Oh, honey, work your behind off until you get it, and don't ever be afraid to aim high.

- We got a lot of girls asking us what ACT score or what GPA they need to be an engineer/get into college/get into World's Best School. I always answered this by saying colleges look at a lot of things besides GPA and ACT, and that it's good to be involved in other activities at well. One girl wouldn't let up until I named a score to get into World's Best School, so I picked the lowest one I thought had a shot: 26 on ACT. Now, in actuality, I think you need at minimum a 30, as well as a stellar resume from highschool. But the little girl's face just fell when she heard 26, and my heart just sank for her. I don't know if she'd already taken it and didn't get a 26, or whether that just seemed impossibly high. I tired to reassure her, but after that I never named a score again.

- In one class, there were two girls who came skipping in and sat right up in the front row. While we were waiting to start, one of the said to me - I'm so excited you are here! You are from the school I want to get into! We stayed late to talk to them afterwards, and who knows, maybe we'll see them someday! I left my email with those two, so if they ever come to visit I'm taking them around on a tour.

- That is, of course, in contrast to the places where the students had never heard of our school. Some teachers, even, didn't recognize the name. Kind of a deflation of the ego, that is. But I can't complain - when I ask international students where they went to undergradute, often they name a school elesewhere in the world I've never heard of, only to find later it's the best in their country.

- Several of the schools we went to were K-12, not just a high school. In one of these schools, I was coming back from the lunchroom when I ran across a little tiny girl wandering in the hallway. Big ol brown eyes, ponytail with bow on the top of her head. "Ma'am?" she said, "Do you know if my mommy is in the lunchroom?" She said this is the cutest southern drawl, and her little hands were just wringing in front of her. I, of course, have no idea who her mother might be, but one look at that little pink mouth and I would adopt her if she couldn't find her mother. She'd fit in my carry-on, I'm pretty sure.

- We did an activity during each presentation, where the girls build a tower that we test with weights. The testing part is always exciting, rooting for the little towers to hold up, stay!, stay!, aw, man, there it goes! One group at the school with mostly rich kids had a group of girls that didn't look happy about the activity. They were all wearing heavy makeup, dressed to the nines, all carrying little pink backpacks, and building a tower was like, so beneath them. But I swear, after a few minutes they really got into it. And when I came around with my weights, they were all squealing as I loaded up the tower, holding hands in excitement. One girl had to turn away, she squeezed her hands into fists and said "I've never been so nervous!" Made my heart proud to see them take ownership of their little project.

All in all, I hope we inspired at least a few girls. Some classes didn't ask us any questions, and some seemed interested. I am satisified with just the fact the girls now know what engineering is, which many of them did not. Most did not, even.

Who knows, one day maybe I'll see a girl walking around on campus who looks familiar. If I hear her say "ya'll," I'm walking over to say hello. :)


  1. SO cool how you were able to be a part of this process! what's in Singapore?!

  2. It's wonderful that you could go and do this. I'm sure the girls will remember you.