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It was the first day of third grade at Oakville Christian School. Like every year, I was excited to meet my new teacher, see my old friends, and make new friends. For six children in our class, however, the first day of school was much more nerve-wracking. They were new kids, entering into a school where half the class had known each other since kindergarten – if not preschool. As they entered the classroom, the rest of us looked curiously upon them. I noticed one girl, slight of build even for an eight-year-old, with short, straight dark hair, making her way towards the table at which I was already sitting. She took the seat across from me. I tried to remember everything my mom had told me the day before about being friendly to the new kids. “I really like your shoes,” I said, pointing to her loafers adorned with different colored rhinestones. I actually did like them.
“Thanks,” she said, almost too softly to be heard.
“So what did you do this summer?” I asked, trying to put myself into the girl’s rhinestone-covered shoes and think of something worthwhile to ask her.
“I went swimming and played with my dogs and saw my little cousins,” she replied, not quite as softly as before but still timidly.
“So what’s your name?” It had just occurred to me that I had completely forgotten to ask her name.
“I’m Kate,” she answered.
“Nice to meet you. I’m Nicki.” Maybe extending myself to others wasn’t quite so difficult after all – Kate and I spent many a school day together, whether we were playing four-square, sneaking off into the bathroom to put on lipstick (and then telling the teacher our bright red lip paint was just lipgloss), or going to each other’s houses to cut the hair off all our Barbies. I learned that she had a little dog – a white ball of fluff appropriately named Snowball – and that she, like me, was an only child. One day, right after school ended for the afternoon, we pulled our mothers together in the parking lot – and they became friends as quickly as we daughters had.
That was over nine years ago. Though Kate and I currently attend different high schools and are applying to different colleges, we are still as close as ever, as are our families. If my mom had not coaxed me out of my comfort zone the day before school started that third grade year, we all would have missed out on the strong bonds we share. Because I took the risk of reaching out to someone outside of my own small circle, I gained an entire family of lifelong friends. I am excited to have the same opportunity in college – I know that people whose names I have never even heard of might be the very people I grow old with. Over the coming year I will continually challenge myself to seek out new people and experiences and reap the rewards of stepping outside my comfort zone.
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