By Rebecca Lin '15
Every Thursday, several Nightingale high school girls and I go the Young Women's Leadership School on 106th between Park and Lexington. There we lead a debate club for their middle school students in which we teach basic public speaking and debate skills. This isn't a class, however, where we lecture about ethos, pathos, and logos. Instead, we try to teach these skills in a way more relatable to middle school students. For example, one activity that we do is to have the middle school students try to persuade their "parents," played by Nightingale girls, to grant them some sort of privilege.
In so many ways, this program is different than what I expected. Before we started, I had this vision of Nightingale girls teaching bright eyed TYWLS girls how to give a persuasive speech, to tell a descriptive story, and to win an argument. And Nightingale girls do teach these things. But what I hadn't imagined was how much I would learn from all of them. On the first day, we did an activity where, as a way to introduce ourselves, we told a personal story and then asked the TYWLS girls to tell us which parts of the story were effective and which weren't. The first girl to raise her hand quickly lectured me on the importance of using the five senses—several of which my story had been lacking. These moments of standing in the front of the room, completely stupefied by the exuberance and intelligence expressed by these girls, constantly occur. My vision for the program is quite different from what it had originally been: I see a future of laughing, learning, and sharing. All of this sounds so cheesy, I know, but I honestly feel so incredibly lucky to work with these girls. There aren't that many opportunities for high school girls to feel as though they can make a difference. We are always too young, too inexperienced, and too naive. Yet every week I get to work with these girls, teach them something new, and see their faces light up so similarly to the way mine did when I first joined the debate team and discovered the same exhilarating thrill of forming a good argument.