Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Luminating Letter to Girls Entering High School

Written by Ingrid N.

Dear Rising Senior High Girls,

scientistGoing into high school was one of the biggest milestones I and any other 8th grader could ever face. With puberty came a sense of maturity and intellectual curiosity that stemmed from my passion for the physical sciences. Already well past my peers in terms of academia, my next sight was set on gaining admission at a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) magnet high school not twenty miles from where I lived, in Greenbelt, MD. The opportunity meant a chance at a better education and academic environment. But it also sowed seeds of doubt in my mind. What if I failed the entrance exam? Or worse, what if I wasn’t shaped to be in the STEM program? Panic mixed with fear flooded my stream of consciousness, as I scribbled away at my answer sheet for a spot that hundreds of 8th grade girls and boys from across the county were competing for. Nearly four hours later, I left the silent halls sullen, sore-eyed, and seething with regret and anger. Regretful of the fact that I had left nearly three pages of problems unanswered. And angry for flustering myself at the least opportune moment. I was sure I had blown it.

Or, at least I thought I had.

It was that nagging voice in my head that day that had let my doubts and insecurities avalanche into what they really were: fear. Like many of you reading this, I was intimidated by going into high school altogether, but moreso, I was intimidated by chasing after my career choice at so young an age. Compounded with the social stigma surrounding female STEM workers in a traditionally male-dominated field, and it was just a matter of time before my worries for my future reached their tipping point. As young girls, we are molded to strive for what society lets us strive for. We are told that we can have ambition and the motivation to succeed, but only in fields that are already overwhelmingly occupied by women, specifically those many perceive as the “soft” sciences. But here I–and possibly you—was, ready to tap into the field of the “hard” sciences. Enamored by algebraic concepts, Newton’s laws, and computer programming, branches of science that many girls in my school had brushed off with a insouciant shrug by the 6th grade. The sense of achievement I felt while excelling in these subjects at school was quickly left by the realization that each step toward my dream distanced me from the others. Each step towards being a competitive candidate for the STEM program gravitated me away from my peers, and further into the hands of my unknown Destiny.

But later that May, and the months that followed, I gradually learned to flush those toxic fears away. I gripped my big, bold-capped acceptance letter in my hand with a radiance and confidence I never knew I could possess, and like any other middle school graduate, I reminisced the past and embraced what would come to be my future: pre-majoring in Computer Science at the school’s prestigious magnet program. I acknowledged that through it all, I couldn’t give in to fear or let anything come between what I wanted to do. And being one of the few teen girls in my trade, I learned that I had to be my biggest supporter, in order to overcome the adversity that would linger my way. And that now more than ever, a strong work ethic was the defining factor in one’s aptitude to succeed.

For those in my shoes, who are still determined to pursue their academic focus in the sciences, or whatever daunting field that may be, never let society, your peers, or your conscience let you believe that your dreams aren’t worth chasing after. There’s no doubt that the future is scary to think about in your young teenage lives, but the sooner you navigate your interests and build your skillsets, the easier the road to your future career will be . Sometimes, you might veer off that road to self-discovery, and other times, you might have moments where you question the validity of your dream, but no journey comes without its bumps and potholes. It’s okay to be uncertain of life’s uncertainties. But just know that anything that you set your mind to, especially the sciences, can be achieved, and only you can define the standards you set for yourself. A strong work ethic and eagerness to learn can catapult you into fields you would never dream of crossing. All you have to do is open your mind—and your heart–to start your journey.