We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofMatea Devalos

The first day at my new middle school, I was really nervous.  I was quiet and shy, hoping people wouldn't be rude like at my old school.  Waiting for my first class to start, I sat in my seat looking at the table below me, trying to be invisible, and wondering if I was going to make any new friends at this school.  Right before class started, someone walked in, and I heard the teacher tell them to sit next to me. When she did, we easily became friends. 

I didn't think I would make a friend on the first day.  I had gone to the same school with the same people since kindergarten, and they kept going to the same middle school together.  I was always kind of shy with them because there were so many people in the class. I was nervous about going to a new school that was 45 minutes away from my house and my old school. It wasn’t great, but at least it was familiar!

I barely knew anyone, and in the beginning, I felt uncomfortable in the environment because it was new for me. A few people I knew had gone to the school the year before, so they already knew each other and the teachers.   I think I opened up faster at my new school because the classes were smaller and all the classes have the same people in them. 

 I’ve been shy since I can remember, but it became worse when I was in third grade.  During art class, we were drawing our "Sight Is Beautiful" contest entry. I tried my best.  Before that, I liked drawing, but I knew I wasn't that good because I was only in third grade. I didn’t expect to be a great artist like Van Gogh, but I was trying my best at the time.  

I brought my art up to the teacher so I could move on to the next step in the project.  The teacher told me that since I wasn't good at drawing, I should use a pencil instead of a Sharpie. I’ve never forgotten those words.  She told me I wasn’t good at drawing.   

I think that is why I haven’t asked many questions since then.  I don’t ask very many questions, either in school or in my taiko drumming group.  I don’t want to be wrong.  Being wrong made me feel embarrassed and vulnerable. 

When I started at my new middle school, I began to feel more comfortable with the people.  The people at my new school were kind to me, so I was able to open up more. In the smaller classes, I was able to talk to my new classmates, and I felt more secure than at my old school.  My new teachers helped me feel more relaxed with the people and in school.   Now, I'm not afraid of being wrong; I ask questions and take the risk because no one puts me down. 

I now realize that changing schools doesn’t mean I won’t make any new friends. I've made friends with people that I feel comfortable sharing with that I can trust.  I've made friends with people from all over the island, instead of only my neighborhood.   Because they live all over and kind of far away, I don't see them very often outside of school, but that hasn’t stopped me from being friends with them. You don’t have to live right next door to people to be friends with them.  America has lots of different people and places; some people have friends all over America.  Maybe one day, I’ll have friends all over the world, too.

© Matea Devalos. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.