“If you teach a boy, you educate an individual; but if you teach a girl, you educate a community.” — Greg Mortenson

I spent some time with several 16- and 17-year-old girls, and each had their own personality and their own manner of speaking or not speaking — some timid, some not. We met to talk about what they wanted to do in their organizations and what they perceived were their strengths and weaknesses. I asked them what they wanted to see from the organization of which I am a member, and they responded with strategies that had never been thought of by me, a member of the older generation.

These girls were each leaders in their schools and, I suspect, in their homes. They listened intently as I spoke, looking me in the eyes. I returned the same gaze, and I believe they knew I was interested in their thoughts.

Every encounter we have with children is a teaching moment. Regardless of where we are and what we are doing or not doing, they observe and absorb. Sometimes the lesson is one that is sustaining to them and they seek to model that, and other times the lesson they absorb is not sustaining and yet they choose to model that. Children interact with different adults in different ways. My children give me different vibes than your children give me, and your children give you different vibes then they give me. It may not be me that influences my children, it may be you or you or you, and the impact of that influence can affect a community. Educating our girls is paramount to the success of society. Girls give back and reach out. Girls say “we” and boys say “I.” Girls can also be extremely mean and petty, and even this negativity impacts society.

The PBS NewsHour website states: “According to Camfed (the Campaign for Female Education), when you educate a girl she will earn up to 25 percent more and reinvest 90 percent of her income in her family. This reinvestment in her family means her children will be more likely to go to school and be immunized, leading to healthier, more productive individuals and communities. The spreading of prosperity and influence is called the ripple effect. A girl’s education is about more than just the individual; it is about the future of her family and her community.”

As parents, grandparents and guardians, we are educators. The more time we spend listening to our girls, which as a parent I can admit can be difficult, the better off the girls will become. The lessons they mirror can at times be distorted and not what we would choose to see, but we must remain steadfast and committed to our girls. Let’s be the foundation that sustains them into the future, which will impact the society that us old folks will live in. Take some time and listen, because like me, you will be amazed at what you hear.

Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mother. Her column appears monthly in the Tracy Press. Comments can be sent to tpletters@tracypress.com.

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