Have you ever wondered what you would tell your 12 year old self? I had not thought about it much until I had the awesome opportunity of leading a program for 12-14 year old girls at an area middle school. My first thought when I was assigned the program was that I would go in and inspire the girls and after 6 weeks walk away with feeling great about teaching the girls how to be more respectful, the importance of empathy and treating others more fairly.

But in turn, they inspired me…the diversity of the girls from age, ethnicity, economic status and personality was very eye opening and I was encouraged to know that these girls have bright ideas of being successful but I also learned about the challenges they face by navigating the day to day struggles of being a teen in today’s technologically driven society. I explained to them that when I was their age I didn’t have to worry about someone saying something hurtful via social media or receiving embarrassing pictures from other youth my age or worrying about someone stealing my phone and/or password and perceiving to be me to hurt others.

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This information wasn’t new to me, but to hear it out of the mouths of girls that are supposed to be focused on making lifelong friendships, being a sponge and learning how to do new things, enjoying life and its carefree nature and laughing at the small stuff was and will always be hard to digest. I tried to explain to them that this is not their future. If they can navigate through situations that make them question the actions of others or affect their personal self-esteem, they will be successful.

Success is not measured in the material things but the content of who you are, your character, your legacy and your ability to respect others. So as I look back on my program, I would want to tell my 12 year old self the same thing “Today is not your tomorrow, and what you do today will certainly affect who you will be in the future.”