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More First Days than Wanted

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It was the beginning of my senior year in high school, I had started talking to a new friend and she was curious about where I had been because I had mentioned that I attended seven schools instead of the traditional three and how each first day at the new schools were all different. I started with my first day of Kindergarten.

In 1999, at the age of five years old, I had moved to Stockton, California from Berkeley, California with my mother and my three sisters Sofia (7), Carmen (3) and Audrey (2 months). My mom had enrolled me and Sofia in a private school called Montessori Children’s House where I was to start Kindergarten and Sofia was going to start Second Grade. When we had gotten to the school Sofia went to her class by herself claiming she was independent but my mom, who knew I was very shy and only spoke to people I was comfortable with, walked me into my class. I became nervous about the strange place I was going to have to be all day from Monday to Friday. My mom found my new teacher Tammy and introduced me.

“This is Esperanza, but she mainly goes by Panza.”

Tammy kneeled to my level and said while smiling, “Nice to meet you, Panza”.

I looked down and tried to hide behind my mom but my mom grabbed my hand instead.

“Let’s meet the rest of the class,” Tammy said while reaching my hand, gesturing that she was a person that I could trust and I didn’t have anything to worry about, but I resisted.

My mom, still holding my hand, and I followed Tammy to where the rest of the class was at, working on their art projects.

“Little boys and girls,” Tammy said to get the class’s attention, “I would like you to meet our newest member of our class, Esperanza, but she goes by Panza.”

The whole class snickered. I looked at my mom with tears in my eyes that read, “Please don’t leave me here.” My mom kneeled to my level.

“Panza, I will be back later to pick you up, ok?”

I didn’t reply and hugged her for five minutes before she picked me up and handed me to Tammy. From that moment on I was out of my comfort zone and I chose to keep to myself. “People are so mean,” was the only thought I had for the rest of the day. For the rest of the school year and during first grade I would do only one of the following: talk to Tammy, read a book, or practice my math. On the last day of first grade, Tammy told my class that if we knew we were going to be here for second grade then we should leave our school supplies in our cubbies. I had left my supplies in my cubby but I didn’t know at the time that I wouldn’t be going there for second grade.

A couple of weeks after school ended my mom decided that we needed to move closer to Ceres, California to be closer to family. My mom had enrolled me (7) for Second Grade, Sofia (9) for Fourth Grade, and Carmen (5) for Kindergarten at Sam Vaughn Elementary but we were put on the wait list and my mom would be informed about when we would be able to attend school,; until then she would homeschool us.

We received the letter at the end of November that said my sisters and I were going to start school on the following Monday. The letter had a list of our new teachers and their classroom numbers. Sofia and I had gotten up at six in the morning to get ready for our first day at our new school; Carmen had afternoon Kindergarten so she slept in. My mom drove us to school then tried to walk Sofia to her class first but Sofia said she wasn’t a baby anymore and didn’t need her mommy to take her to class. My mom walked me to my class and introduced me to my new teacher, Mrs. Martin. Mrs. Martin was getting all my supplies together when my mom noticed that my cousin Kassandra was in the same class; she suggested to Mrs. Martin that I stay with Kassandra for my first day. My first day of Second Grade seemed to be going well-- my cousin was in my class and my teacher was friendly towards me, but things changed when lunch time started.

“Hey Cuz, is it ok if I hang out with you and your friends?” I shyly asked Kassandra.

“No! Go make your own friends.”

I walked away with tears developing in my eyes, my own cousin was rude to me and it seemed that none of my classmates wanted to get to know me. I kept to myself once again until school ended. Thankfully my mom decided it was time for change once again and my family and I had moved at the beginning of July 2002 back to Stockton, but in a newly developed neighborhood called Weston Ranch. At the end of July my mom went to August Knodt Elementary/ Middle School to enroll me for third grade and Carmen for first grade, Sofia wanted to be homeschooled. The principal, Mr. Sousa, told my mom that school had been in session for two weeks but students had been changing their classes so we had come at the perfect time. Mr. Sousa told my mom who our teachers were and our classroom numbers, but my mom had to leave for work so she told me our teachers and the classroom numbers. I looked for Carmen’s class first and dropped her off and told her that I was going to see her during recess, and then went to look for my class. When I found the class I waited by the door for the teacher or someone who was in my class. A middle aged man with metallic glasses and a bushy mustache came up to me.

“Why hello there,” the man said. “Do you need help with something?”

“Umm… I’m looking for Mr. Vigor. I’m his new student Esperanza,” I replied shyly.

He smiled. “Well I’m him. It’s nice to meet you Esperanza.”

“Nice to meet you too.”

“I’m sure we will love having you in our class.”

This was my best first day of school so far. I attended August Knodt until the middle of my seventh grade year when my grandpa had a massive stroke. My mom decided to move back to Ceres so she could help him. This was the hardest move I had to undergo. On my last day at August Knodt there were tears shed, and exchanging of home and email addresses to keep in touch. I did not think saying goodbye would be so hard, these had been the best four years of my life so far, and I had many friends who did not want me to leave and offered to let me stay at their houses, but unfortunately, I had to leave.

I enrolled in a junior high school in Ceres and the school counselor walked me to my first period class, Life Science; Kassandra was in the class. I did not talk to her because I remembered the terrible thing she had said to me five years earlier. It was a horrible first day, no one knew me and they had already started to judge and criticize me. I went to the library after school to pick up my textbooks.

“Why are you getting your textbooks late? You were supposed to get them at the beginning of the school year,” the librarian said to me.

I was not expecting her to say anything rudely, especially to a thirteen year old girl, but I told her that I was new to the school. The librarian did not apologize for what she had said. I gathered my textbooks and started my mile walk home. As I was walking, I suddenly felt my back get heavier and I fell forward on the ground. A girl, who I had never seen before, looked at me and said, “Get out of here freak, no one wants you here.” And walked away.

I got back on my feet and ran home with tears streaming down my face. This wasn’t my new home, I had just entered Hell. I thought I was going to be trapped in Ceres forever. Three years later, during my sophomore year at Ceres High, my mom suddenly realized that Ceres was the worst place to raise a family. She wanted a change of scenery; she had been looking through the internet for great job opportunities outside of the Central Valley. A job had just opened at a non-profit organization for people of Chicano or Native American descent to get into jobs involving sciences, office in Santa Cruz office as Director of Programs which was the area of work she was most experienced with. She had applied in March 2010 and was hired in April 2010. I had become ecstatic for the first time in three years. Finally I was leaving Hell!

In August 2010, I decided to join the Water Polo team at because I wanted to meet people and try a sport they didn’t offer at my old school. I had met with the coach and he was very welcoming as well as my new teammates. I knew at that moment that I was going to love attending my high school. On the first day of school I did not start until the end of second period because the counselors had to process my information about my house and the last school I attended, but when I walked into second period, AP US History, the class stopped reading their papers and some had started to ask me if I would like to go to lunch with them. I told them that I was not completely done with my scheduling but I would join them the next day. I had not expected the people to be as friendly as they have been towards me because I had become so used to the harsh criticism and judgment of Ceres. Now at eighteen years old I love living in Santa Cruz, I am not afraid of being myself and I enjoy the company of the people I have met and have gotten to know in the past year and a half. I am very grateful for where life has led me despite all the obstacles: Thank you so much, everyone, for making this place my home.





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