Sarah-Nicole Jackson, class of 2023
The school day seemed to fly by as normal. First I went to math class, then we had a free period, then language arts, then lunch, and so forth. It wasn’t until the end of the day when we heard a shocking announcement on the loudspeaker.
“Attention, students of River Fork High school. I have an announcement to make.”
It was the voice of our principle on the loudspeaker as usual. What, did someone lose their notebook or something again? The types of teens who went to this school were usually very irresponsible. It was normal for an announcement to be made at least every other day calling for a student to pick up their lost notebook or pencil pouch. The principle continued with his announcement, “Next week we have a transfer student from Japan coming to attend our school here in River Fork. Please be as cordial as possible and make their first week here the best it could possibly be.”
Immediately my classmates started to buzz with excitement. Transfer student? I wonder if they’re a boy or girl? Could they teach us Japanese? I exchanged curious glances with my friends Marilou and Twyla, but before we could discuss the new student among ourselves the teacher quieted the class and continued on with her lesson.
After school had ended, Marilou met me at my locker and asked me the same question she did every school afternoon.
“So, are you riding the bus today, Kaylin?”
“Awesome! But before we leave, would you mind accompanying me to the vending machine so I can buy a Dr. Pepper?”
“Sure, sure. Just let me finish packing up my stuff,” I told her as I stuffed the last of my composition books in my bag.
It was a long walk down the hallway to the only vending machine in the school and back to the stairwell that led to the parking lot outside where the buses were. When we got outside, we said our goodbyes as we went to board our separate buses. I reached into my bag to pull my earbuds out, and then was bombarded by a feeling of despair when I remembered they had stopped working the previous Thursday. Letting out a low sigh, I pulled out a book to read instead. It was the third in a series Twyla was crazy about. She wouldn’t stop bugging me about it for a week until I finally started to read the series.
I was about to start reading when suddenly my phone buzzed. It was a message from Marilou. A japanese transfer student, huh? Must be pretty exciting for you. I typed up a response. Yeah, pretty exciting. I can’t wait to meet her! A side hobby of mine was studying different cultures, and Japan’s culture intrigued me the most. I was hoping to learn all I could from this new student. I waited for a bit to see if she would text back, but surprisingly she said nothing more. Marilou was usually pretty chatty.
Without warning, the week seemed to speed by, and before we knew it, it was Monday again. Today we would be met with a new transfer student. I woke up early, too excited to go back to sleep, and got ready with an extra pep in my step.
My mom seemed to notice my excitement, because while she drove me to my morning bus stop, she asked,
“Did something big happen?”
“Well, we’re getting a new student today! And she’s a transfer student from Japan! It is pretty amazing.”
“Ooh, that’s cool. I hope she’s a nice student. Make sure you treat her the same way you treat your friends, okay?”
“Got it.” She didn’t need to tell me twice. I was more than ready to meet this new transfer student.
I arrived in the gym and sat down in the section where the juniors were. All of the different grades had designated areas in which they sat in. My gaze caught Marilou and I scooted over to her.
“Oh, hi.” She greeted me back. “The transfer student should be introducing herself soon.”
We continued to chat about what the new student might be like until we were interrupted by the sound of the principal coming from the middle of the room.
“Attention, everyone,” he started. “As you all should know, today we have a new student joining us. She is a transfer student from Japan, and has worked very hard to learn English so she could attend this school. Everyone please meet Yumi Nishimura.” He stepped to reveal a girl with black hair and tan skin. Her hair was arranged into a neat bun and she had a necklace wrapped around her neck which led to a zipped-up blue jacket. She was wearing some jean shorts and navy blue tennis shoes. Her gaze swept over the entire gym and she started to speak.
“H-Hello students of R-River Fork High. It is nice to meet you all.” Her voice wavered as she spoke, showing her nervousness, and she spoke sort of slowly, evidence that she was still getting used to speaking English. She also had a unique accent in her voice.
It’s nice to meet you too. Everyone’s voices sounded in unison. With a bow, Yumi stepped back and allowed the principal to speak again. “Everyone, from this point forward, Ms. Yumi is now a part of our school community. Please treat her with respect as you would our fellow student.” And with that, we were dismissed to our classes for the day.
I arrived in my math class and took a seat at my desk, which was behind Twyla’s desk as well. She leaned back and whispered in my ear.
“So, didja’ hear?” She asked.
“Hear what, exactly?” I responded, confused.
“About the new transfer student. Apparently she has some sort of hearing disability. I tried to talk to her earlier, and when she didn’t respond, I just thought she was ignoring me at first, and was about to get mad, but finally she acknowledged me and I noticed hearing aids in her ears.”
A feeling of sympathy for Yumi washed over me. I couldn’t imagine having any type of disability.
Then our math teacher, Mrs. Jeanine, walked up to the front of the classroom and wrote our warm-up problem on the whiteboard to signal the beginning of class.
x + 39= 156. Solve for x.
Easy enough. I had the problem finished within a minute or two. Twyla was sketching on some notebook paper after she was finished, as usual, and I took out my book and started reading. After five more minutes, Mrs. Jeanine walked up to the whiteboard and began to speak.
“For this problem, I have asked our new student, Yumi, if she would like to solve it, and she said it would be her pleasure. Now, Ms. Yumi, if you come up to the board and solve the problem out.” There was no response. Yumi was just staring blankly at the board. Mrs. Jeanine cleared her throat. “Yumi, if you would come up to the board please.” Still no response. The person sitting next to her, one of my least favorite students, Greer Wragge, tapped on her shoulder.
“Hey, nitwit.” He caught her attention aggressively. “If you’re done spacing out, maybe you could answer the question so we don’t have extra homework tonight.” Mrs. Jeanine gave him a warning glance to remind him to be cordial to the new student, but everyone already knew Greer wouldn’t care.
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Yumi snapped out of her daze and apologized, making her way to the front board. Solving the problem out quickly and having it validated by Mrs. Jeanine, she headed back to her seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught our class’ mean girl, Kelsie Baker, whispering some things to her friends, or more like servants, Deanne Paternoster and Kailey Love. They let out a few giggles and I could immediately tell she was insulting the new girl. Rolling my eyes, I set my focus back on our math teacher.
Math class seemed to roll by as usual, with us opening our huge workbooks and working on more seemingly impossible math problems. Math has never really been my thing. After what seemed like forever, the bell finally rung, signaling the end of class. It was time for free period!
I entered the school library, where my free period usually took place, and looked around for Marilou. Sadly, Twyla didn’t share the same free period as us. Before I could run into Marilou, I saw something that enraged me. Greer and his trouble-making friend, Zeke, were tormenting poor Yumi! I was simply going to go up to them and threaten to tell a teacher if they didn’t stop, but my mind changed to a different plan as soon as I caught Greer yank Yumi’s hearing aids out of her ears.
Yumi yelped in pain and covered her ears, and I could see tears pooling in her eyes. I saw Greer cackle and muse, “You don’t need these right? Just a little accessory? Then, you wouldn’t mind if I threw them in the trash, right?” He pulled his arm back.
That indignant little pest! My thoughts were full of anger as I marched over to where the commotion was happening. Before I knew it, my hand flew across Greer’s face, with the noise of a slap filling the air. Greer, in shock, dropped Yumi’s hearing aids and doubled back. “Dude, what the heck?!” He yelled.
“If I ever catch you do that again, you better bet I’m going to report you to a teacher. You don’t mess around with disabled people like that! What is wrong with you? And to bully a precious new student too!” With a glare, I sent Greer and his gang of troublemakers retreating to the back of the library. After they were gone, I turned my attention towards Yumi.
When I walked up to her, she shrank back, probably afraid I would hurt her too. I reached out my hand and presented her with her hearing aids. She immediately grabbed them and inserted them back in her ears. “Thank you, thank you!” she repeated. I softly smiled and extended my hand out to her.
“Hello, Yumi. My name’s Kaylin. Do you wanna hang out with me and my friends?” I saw her hesitate for a moment, but she grabbed my hand, and I helped her out of the chair she was sitting in.
It was time to make a new friend.