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Culture Shock

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Frank Allis Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin, is a school full of over 500 kindergarten through fifth grade students and faculty of diverse colors, cultures, and classes from African American to Japanese, homeless to wealthy, and everything in between. I attended Frank Allis for kindergarten and first grade and was used to being immersed (and liked being immersed) in various different cultures. It was a good educational experience to learn about how different ethnic groups and social/economic classes lived compared to how I lived. Differences in people were embraced and celebrated. It didn’t matter if someone was black, white, Asian, rich, poor… we got along and didn’t discriminate each other.
In summer after first grade, my dad was transferred to Hartland, Wisconsin – about an hour and a half east of Madison, in a house five minutes away from North Lake School. I was excited about being in a new house within walking distance from my school. My grandparents came all the way up from Florida and a few of our friends from Madison came to see it. I liked it; it made the new place feel homey. I would tell them all about how my little brother and I got to stay with our Aunt Jody and Uncle Dan and cousins, Kelsey and Jordan, for a whole week while Mom and Dad packed and moved. And how I wasn’t nervous about meeting people; I figured it would be the same as in Madison, but in a more country-like setting.
However, my first day of school proved otherwise. I arrived at North Lake School at 7:00 a.m., cranky and tired. My parents told me my new school was going to start early, but I definitely didn’t realize how early. They also told me that it was a kindergarten through eighth grade school, so I expected it to be big. When I got there, I saw it was no bigger, maybe even smaller, than Frank Allis. And the thing that flabbergasted me the most was that everyone was white; there didn’t appear to be anyone of any other ethnic group… it was all rich Caucasians. I remember being so confused, thinking, Why is there no diversity here? After school, I came home off my ridiculously short bus ride to my mom waiting by the bus stop. The first thing I said to her when she asked how my first day at North Lake was: “Mommy, where are all the black people?” The other mothers were shocked and some of the kids laughed at me. Mom quickly took me inside and explained to me that I couldn’t expect this little town to be the same as the big city. It was a hard concept to grasp as a seven-year-old; the diversity was left behind with our old house.





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