An 8th grader wobbles out onto the rink, ankles bent painfully inward. Strong and steady, another 8th grader comes up beside her and takes her hand and they set off together. When they re-emerge from the other side of the large central column, they have been joined by another 8th grader who has taken the other hand of the wobbly girl. They pick up speed, and start another lap.

Later on, this same girl will have gained noticeably in confidence and skills and will be skating on her own. Much later on, more than an hour after our arrival, she will sit down beside me and start unlacing her skates. “I’ve decided I don’t like roller skating” she commented. “Well, you certainly gave it a good solid try,” I responded, to which she said firmly and without a trace of regret, “Yes, I did.” She smiled, stood up, returned her skates, and headed downstairs to the food court with some of her friends.

As I’m pondering the uncertain dynamics of so many of the young adolescents at Interskate 91, the boys speeding around and the girls in short shorts, all hoping to be noticed, I can’t help but remark on the self-possession of our students, their self-confidence whether speeding around alone or just hanging out in a group, laughing over… whatever! Suddenly, a 7th grader swoops up, slightly sweaty and out of breath. “I’m SO glad I go to an all-girls school!” she comments, and then swoops away again. I am just as glad as she is.

On the way home, the white bus is much louder than it was on the way down just three hours previously. Cell phones are being passed back and forth, and occasionally a voice will rise up above the others: “Someone please call me!” We know that female brains thrive on connections, and clearly the last three hours have brought this group closer together, creating connections they want to develop and reinforce. Though not formally called our “bonding trip,” that is exactly what this has been.