A-bear and $1 ice cream
Today is the first day of school. I can't help but think about so much untapped potential that exists to nurture the leader in every child-- to be their support system, to raise them holistically, and to empower and elevate their voices so that they realize their power and capability. When I reflect on my own first day of school many years ago, I think about all the ways that simple but informed decisions made a difference for me.
When I entered Mrs. Borrelli's sixth grade class on my first day of school in Mantua, I was unsure what to expect. It wasn't easy being the new kid in a school where everybody had six years to get to know one another before. I remember feeling stared at as I struggled to figure out where to put my backpack and lunch bag when walking in, something my peers were familiar with. I won't forget people like Sarah May who greeted me warmly and introduced me to her “bff” Kayla Hallstrom. It means so much that they were nice to me. I also remember meeting the third person in their friend group. She specifically avoided me. I asked her whether we could be friends and she told me that she could only be friends with blondes. I never really understood why until I became older. To this day, I remember how embarrassing it was to me that my history teacher would call me "A-bra" with her Bostonian accent and how my music teacher called me "A-bear." I also remember being chosen second-to last in gym class and having a hard time keeping up with things I did not understand. I would notice when a particular clique kept me out, and I even remember their ring leader. Kids would ask me over and over again "if I was hot in that" even after I would answer them as they snickered and encouraged each other to do the same. It amazes me how specifically I remember certain things-- almost everyone by full name-- without much effort. I realize now that those who know me today could probably never expect that to have been my reality.
At the same time, I will never forget adults like Mr. White, my science/math teacher, who helped instill in me a passion for the subjects and who would have lunch with me sometimes. I think back to school enthusiasts like Ms. Thompson who would cheer us on and remind us why we loved our school. I remember mentors like Ms. Dunfee who supported the morning news show that I so thoroughly looked forward to participating in, GMM ("Gooood Morning Maaantua! Hi! My name is Abrar Omeish...."). I was so grateful for the Mantua ice cream social, which I am so happy to see continue (with an inclusive admission fee of $1!), where I was able to introduce my mother to the friends I had made. Thinking back, it was fascinating to see parents who otherwise would not have gotten along meet each other because of their children. Things at Mantua were so great that it was possible for a girl like me to win the Daughters of the American Revolution award for history during graduation!
Perhaps what is most powerful to me now is the impact of these memories on the formation of my identity as a child and on my sense of self. When I reflect on what I lived and the many more experiences that I saw around me being personal to my friends and peers, I am determined to work towards bringing out the leader in every child. I think back to specific people who could have been shaped differently had just one adult believed in them, or had they just associated themselves in a different crowd, or had their parents just had a little more disposable income. I think back at all the possibilities-- the many future discoveries and accomplishments that our community could collectively celebrate had the potential in each of those children been actualized.
The memories I outline are small examples of what I think about and what inspires me ahead. I am thrilled to wish each and every student-- the quiet and the bold student, the struggling and the advanced student, a happy and blessed start to the year. Please write to me and let me know how I can best be there for you. Let us know what matters to you and follow our weekly program “11 - 5 Issues Live!” where we will break it all down for you.
I can't wait to have the privilege of serving you and your families someday soon. I hope that you will join me to bring out the leader in every child.
Happy first day of school everyone!