We have so many wonderful chicas dinámicas that it would be impossible to pick any one of them as our best student. Some are great leaders, some are great athletes, and others are really good at being part of a team…and of course we have some troublemakers, but that is what makes each of our classes special. Every one of our girls brings something different to the table, and this semester it was so fun watching our girls grow as athletes and as young women.
One student in particular who really stood out to me this semester was one of our youngest students. Estrella is in third grade and is ‘technically’ too young for our program, but we already had a few third graders that had joined our Santoni class prior to Larkin and I’s arrival in Cusco, and she was honestly just too cute for us to turn away.
At most of our schools we practice on the school’s court, but Santoni is different because we play after school on a public court which isn’t too far from the school. There are often other children hanging around while we’re practicing, and one day we saw Estrella hanging out timidly on the sidelines. We asked her if she wanted to play with us and she was so shy that we could barely hear her when she said she’d rather just watch. At the end we went back over to her and told her that she should come to the next class and try it out to see if she liked it. We didn’t really expect her to come back since there had been several girls whom we’d had join us for one or two practices before vanishing, but she did seem to be friends with our other third graders and so we crossed our fingers hoping that she might come back.
Much to our surprise, the next class she was the first student to arrive at the court, and although still a bit nervous, she was ready to play! The rest is pretty much history–for the remainder of the semester, Estrella was consistently one of the first chicas to arrive at the court, and she quickly became one of our most enthusiastic students. It only took a few classes for her to become comfortable with the group, and soon she was just as chatty and giggly as any of our other girls.
When I think about GSW’s larger impact in Cusco and how I have contributed to it during my time here in Cusco, I need only to think of Estrella to know that the work I am doing is worth it. It has been so incredibly gratifying to watch her develop over the course of the semester. She is a perfect example of GSW’s mission: to empower girls in a safe environment where they can develop athletically and socially. When I think about her standing quietly on the sidelines that first day, it is hard to imagine that she’s the same girl who I now look forward to seeing in class every day. Although she’s still a little young to be a real group leader, she consistently works hard and has fun. Her smiles are seriously contagious, and I know I’ll be so excited to see her on the first day of class next semester.
(Estrella is the girl in glasses anxiously awaiting her end of the semester Christmas surprise!)