Children's Almanac: Hoover Middle School

Children's Almanac: Hoover Middle School

Alexander Lindsay, 7th grade — Snowfall of Leaves

Alexander Lindsay, 7th grade — Snowfall of Leaves


Alexander Lindsay, 7th grade — Chess Move

Entering Middle School

The summer before sixth grade, I shivered and shuddered.

“What’s wrong?” they would say.

“I’m off to sixth grade,” I would mutter.

And then it was the time; the day! The week!

That I would go to classes, seven in a row,

I was so nervous, I could barely squeak!

Soon I found out that it wasn’t too bad,


Going up the stairs was the

toughest workout I ever had!

My binder is a dumbbell, which weighs 100 pounds.

It is purple and square,

Yes, it’s just as heavy as it sounds!

But on with the classes,

Here I am, first period!

My Science teacher has different attention-bringers;

One is a bell (a big loud bell),

One is a whistle, so high-pitched and squeaky,

But these are nothing, compared to his last one,

His — oh my gosh — his air blast horn!

If you are ever to hear it in the room,

Oh boy, it will give you worse than a shock!

My Chinese teacher is really great too,

Her methods of teaching are very fun,

For example, when teaching us “chicken” in Chinese,

She made a “bawk, bawk” noise!

What’s more, we play fun (and educational) games in her class,

Like bingo, balloon pop, and hopscotch;

My record is six point five!

Despite how tiring they are,

All my classes are fun.

It’s not how I thought it would be.

Sixth grade is pretty great!

— Caroline Chou, 11, 6th grade

Journey of a Lifetime

Life is not about reaching the destination, for life is about the events that occur throughout the journey. The events are what make life so significant and these events can be both negative and positive life experiences. When I was a little boy, I was diagnosed with a rare disease that made me very sick. During treatment, I hated my life and I blamed the whole world for my sickness. But when I recovered from the disease, I felt like there was nothing that I couldn’t do.

A year later I started elementary school. It was a whole new world for me. I enjoyed the fun lessons, the bonds that were made with new friends, and the awesome teachers who have taught me the wonders of learning. They are what gave me a reason to get up in the morning. As I approached graduation, I was afraid that my world was coming to an end.

Now my journey has taken me to Hoover Middle School. I now understand what my grandmother once told me. She said, “A tree may be big and grand but it represents everything that it lived through in its own journey.” I am what I have experienced in my journey of life. But it’s not over yet. I will experience many more events, both negative and positive. I do not know where I will end up at the end of my journey but I am looking forward to all the events that life has to offer.

— Konnor Lee, 11

Outdoor Education

The thing I’m looking forward to in the year is Outdoor Ed. I wonder what we will be doing there and why it costs over $50.

Everyone older than me says it is great. We get to stay there for three days and two nights. I always wanted to stay somewhere overnight with someone my parents don’t know very well. They would only let me sleep over with my cousins. Also, we get to go hiking in the woods which I never got to do. I am going to Skycroft which people say is the best say while others say they are the same. I have to be safe on the trip because there might be animals like bears. Also, it could be very cold outside and the whole time I will be cold.

— Bhavesh Thapar

Race, Ethnicity, Food, and Friends

Almost all of my life I can remember, I was known as the kid with weird food to people who weren’t Asians. I have had friends, throughout my life who have understood my lunch. When I was in kindergarten and first grade, I had a Hispanic friend who had Native American roots. Human evolutionarily speaking, she’s Ancient Siberian and something else. Other than that, all my friends have more recent Asian roots. It is good to have friends who have different backgrounds than you so you can understand theirs and they can understand yours.

Currently, I have a Chinese friend whose grandmother only speaks Chinese which I have a hard time understanding. My mom cooks weird looking soup that tastes good, and my friend’s grandmother cooks weird soup that tastes good. My friend’s grandma also gives my friend “strange food.” (Soup is not too strange, right?) I sometimes go over to her house, and I think the soup and the bread “buns” (I don’t know the English name for them) are tasty. She makes “buns” with meat, honey, and these vegetables that are probably green onions. Although, unlike my mom, my friends grandmother has multiple kinds of soup. But, that makes my friend’s understanding better. The only thing, though, is that she’s a year younger than me, and she can’t defend my lunch in the cafeteria.

One thing I have not really found anyone understanding is my mom stuffing half the thermos with salad mix that doesn’t match the pasta or chicken soup stuff. My Filipino mother would occasionally make me “bean cake,” which is a squishy cake-like stuff with red beans in it. People would go “Ewwwww, what IS that?!?” without even trying it — though, personally, I think it would taste better with chocolate.

Friends are important, especially ones of different races/ethnicity. Most of my friends are Asians, since I’m half Asian, and over half my swim team is Asian. A lot of my friends are on the swim team. Also, a lot of people on the swim team are used to strange foods, since they are almost all Asians. They are used to me bringing “strange” fruits to swim meets, l like, persimmons. For the team breakfasts, there are dumplings once or twice a month. Almost every time there is fried rice. But, the one thing (that is part of the main meal), is the doughnuts and/or bagels. YUM!

All in all, everyone should have diverse friends that will not only be good friends, but also should make your food more enjoyable by making it seem not “weird.” That is why being diverse and not being afraid of it is good.

— Kelsie Miller, 11

Traffic in Potomac, Md.

Traffic in Potomac, Md., and surrounding towns is very infuriating. The roads are smothered in potholes, and, do not even get me started on the one lane bridge! First of all, people on the one lane bridge next to Glen Road do not know where they are or what they are doing. People just blow right through and do not have right of way, which causes fights, and jams the four roads surrounding it. The roads can get backed up incredibly easily, with jams by the bridge going all the way up the hill. My Mom lives on Jones Lane, a road that would usually be fifteen minutes away from my school on Falls Road, and it takes us thirty-five minutes to get to school because we have to take side roads around the one lane bridge.

“We’re practically driving through people’s driveways,” my mom says. The bridge is preserved right now as a rustic road, but they really should widen it.

— Chase Pantezzi, 11


It was a December morning in Long Island, New York. I put on my hat, winter jacket, and snow boots so I could go on a walk. I stepped out, and it was freezing cold and snowy outside. I could barely see the sunrise through the vast amount of fog. Through the mellow, gray scene, I could hear the songbirds singing their familiar tunes. Humming along quietly, I watched my breath while my boots would sink into the chunky snow. Thump. Thump. Thump. My senses were numbing.

My nose started to turn red upon my freckled face. To pass the time while walking, I caught snowflakes on my tongue. The brisk weather consumed my senses.Yet even with this horrible weather, I felt better. What had troubled me yesterday was fading away with every step I took. The serenity was almost cathartic to me. But later, the sun will come out. The snow will melt away, and color will be brought to the streets of New York. I wanted to remember this beautiful, serene day feeling free.

— Zoya Chowdhury, 12


The sun is shining,

The sky is blue.

It’s a beautiful day,

Don't you think so too?

— Josie Cohen age 11

What makes a good friend

I have many good friends and what makes them so special is always making sure I’m happy and okay. Also, they always make me laugh and I get to talk through my problems with them. My friends and I never get in any arguments. That is what I like about them. We always get along.

— Julia Yue


I step outside. My clothes slowly soak as I put my hands into the damp wet air. I have to walk. It’s only three more houses down. It’s only two more houses down. Only one. One more. It feels as if this last house takes hours to get by. I feel my hair like I had just walked out of a pool. My backpack is soaked and thunder rumbles and lightning strikes. I look up and

see lightning like a bolt of electricity flying through the air. The thunder rumbles like a wolf howling at a full moon.

Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. Clink. Clank. Clink. Clank.

I repeatedly hear the raindrops and water dripping on poles which make whistling like sounds. The wind blows on me like a fan on full power. I feel like my own personal cloud exploded on my head. I wipe my face of tears and rain as my best friend who moved to California wipes her sweat across her face. The thunder strikes a pole and there is a huge commotion.

Everyone shrieks. The security guards sit around and do their jobs glumly. The thunder strikes loudly and I feel a quivering chill run down my body. I made it. I made it inside.

— Anisha Poojary, 11

Little Rabbit

I have a little rabbit

His coat as soft as snow

I can tell when he is happy

As far as thumping goes

I have a little rabbit

A barcode on his ear

And when we come to pick him up

He always hops with fear

I have a little rabbit

A naughty one you see

But when we come to bring him food

He always hops with glee!

— Joanna Morales, 11

Mysterious Figure

The grass was unkempt and moist. The harsh wind whipped through Sophie’s curly blond hair as the breeze took her hood off her head.The

crescent moon gleamed bright through the dark clouds. Her footsteps made an ominous sound through the ground as she walked toward her grandmother’s grave. Sophie placed the rose next to the marker and sent a silent prayer. As she was getting up, a slim wisp of fog blew across her face. Sophie shivered and drew her jacket closer, not that it would make her any warmer. Abruptly, she felt like something was watching her. Then she realized that the fog had drifted behind her and had grown larger in size. Every second she stood there the wisp grew bigger and bigger until it did not resemble a thread of a cloud anymore. Amazed, she watched its shadow flashed on the ground by the moonlight as it turned into a figure. Suddenly she felt a cold breath on top of her head. Slowly, she turned her head and looked up. Above her stood a crooked hooded figure smiling smugly down at her. Everything clicked into place at that moment. She recognized that figure. Sophie screamed.

— Sylvia Thomson, 11

The 2016 Election Winner

Some people think the U.S. is done, and some think it's only just begun. With a random millionaire in office in Donald J. Trump who knows what's going to happen? He might be the best president and “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” or he could completely ruin this country and put everyone in poverty. Who knows? He said he didn't want to live in the White House so why in the world did he run? He also said he wanted to kick out all the illegals and build a wall on the border between Mexico and the U.S. Let's see what he does.

— Kaiden Youssefieh, 12

Give a Gift

If I could give my immediate family any gift that didn’t cost money, I would decide to give them some kind of service pass. Instead of buying them something that they may lose interest in quickly, and they may not really need, I would let them use me for whatever tasks they needed for one day, like a miniature servant. For example, if my father used his pass the day after Christmas, I would be his assistant and do whatever work-related tasks he wanted to complete for that day. That would be my “priceless” gift to my close family, that could possibly make them feel happier and less stressed.

— Nicholas Porter, 12

Best Gift I Have Ever Received

The best gift I have ever received was a box that contained an iPad, an auto robot that cleaned your room, a professional basketball, a ton of professional badminton birdies, a professional badminton racket, about ten nerf guns and three comic collections and my favorite: A one thousand inches toy racing track plus ten toy cars go on it that’s really cool. I received this gift when I thought my birthday party was about to end. Instead, ten kids stayed longer, and two more kids had a sleep-over in my house. Well, of course this box was not from one person. All my uncles and aunts gave this to me together. This was a really good gift from everyone, and I really liked it better than if everyone gave me a random gift.

— Andy Liang, 11


The thing I am most looking forward to this year is swimming. I really want to improve my times from last year, and train harder to become better. This year I feel like I it is my year, almost like my breakout year, or the year I go from good to great. I just think that, if I eat healthy, train at home, and swim harder at swim practice, something great will happen. That is why I think swimming is the thing I most look forward to.

— William Kertajaya, 11

The Haunted House

It was Halloween night and my friends and I were heading out to the house next door. It was surprisingly dark and cold this night. Of course no one really noticed because of the candy, costumes, and scares. We got to the driveway and I was just the slightest bit creeped out. The shutters were crooked, the door was scratched, the roof had a hole in it, and the whole house was a complete mess. Worst of all there was a faint red glow just inside that hole in the roof. I did not admit it to anyone, but there was no way I was going in that haunted house. I entered though, not wanting to feel like a baby.

This was my worst nightmare. I could barely see through the billions of cobwebs. Once I reached the stairs, I realized that my friends had gone the other way. The faint red glow was up the stairs. I climbed the rotted stairs as they squeaked and groaned under my pressure. I made to the top, fortunately, without having my foot falling through the stairs. As silently as I could I crept up to the door with the mysterious glow. When I opened it, it made the weirdest sound. I peeked around the door and saw something. Another door. I walked through what I thought was the worst room in the house to the second door. As I was doing this I tripped over something. A bone. I did not know who’s bone and I did not want to. I just kept walking and did not look down when something snapped under my foot, I was too grossed out. When I tried to open the second door though it would not budge. Then I kicked the door. It fell right over into the other room. This room was the most ghostly room in the house.

I could not take it anymore. Without even searching for the red glow, I ran straight out the door way, down the stairs, and out to the front lawn. That was when I realized my best friends were still inside of the house.

— Sydney Willich, 11



The sun is bright

Today is a day

With no bad sights

For anyone to see


The birds are singing

In the trees

Stop clinging

To your doubts so long


The flowers are here

All to see their beauty

Can’t cry about there

That’s behind you now


You have no reason to hide

It’s your stage to shine

Now it’s time to glide

On your new wings




— Melody Qian, 11


I am Aldon Tadmor. I was born in Israel. I want to be an actor when I grow up. I do not want it for the money, I want it for the fun. I enjoy singing, dancing, and acting. Currently I am in my third play, but only my second musical. I did in my history, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and currently, “Into The Woods.” I enjoy acting very much and hope to go to Lee Strasberg Institute of Acting. I then plan to live a life with a wife and kids. I want to be mainly in movies but, I won’t be dissatisfied with plays or small movies. I love acting!

— Alon Tadmor, 11

Giving my time

If I could give my family any gift that didn’t cost money it would be my time. I regret not being able to spend time with my sister especially when I was younger and when she was less busy. I am the youngest in my family and I feel that when I am older I might not have them by my side. I know I will regret this in the future so I would give my time to them now rather

than regretting it in the future. Giving them my time will not only make them feel happy but will make me feel happy because spending time with family is always fun. The other day me and my siblings were talking about how the TV shows were so good back then.

We laughed, talked, and made jokes about the shows while eating dinner. I realized that time is precious so use it wisely.

— Jenna Jeon, 11

What I Think Good Parents Are

A good parent always supports you through your hard times. They will always pull you when you fall. They will always teach you what is right and what is wrong. Your parents will always show endless love in you!

No matter how powerful your parents are, they will still try their best to support you! They will try their best to make you a good person.

You should be nice to your parents for what they have done to you!

— Todd Zhou, 11

What I Think Life Is All About

We are the sum of experiences that we encounter as we go through life. Day to day struggles and excitements are experienced by all of the world's creatures. As human beings, when we encounter a challenge, we have to choose how to react. Every decision that we make leads us down a different road. We will never come to exactly the same crossroads as others. It is our job to choose the right decision. Every decision that we make has specialty. The tiniest choice that we make can change throughout the entire universe. Every choice you make can change your life forever .…

— Todd Zhou, 11

Car Crashes

One day driving,

You were waiting at a red light.

Then, boom someone slams your car!

You skid into the middle of the road.

Someone slams into you again!

What do you do next?

It depends on who you are …

— Todd Zhou, 11


Diversity is very important among communities. We need a diverse community so we can job specialization and everyone can be unique the way they are. If everyone is the same, then nobody will have the freedom to express their opinion and be different!

— Todd Zhou, 11

The Best Day Ever

The best day of my life was when I had friends go to my birthday party, for the first time. It was August 6, 2016, when I picked up my friends Hanfei and Leo, along with my immigrant cousin, my sister and dad. I knew that this day was going to be packed with adventure.

We ate lunch at Silver Diner, but there wasn’t much food that was eaten. After lunch at Silver Diner, we visited Glow-Golf with a laser maze, which was pretty cool. Just before the Escape Room, we visited Carmen’s Italian Ice, with a mango and strawberry gelati.

The Escape Room was full of skeletons, since I chose the Pirate mission. We were all scared, and failed the mission. Leo hit his back on the fireplace, so that delayed us. We were only one step away from escaping, but overall had a good time. After the escape room, we just relaxed at home until 9:00. I have to say, that day was awesome!

— Nathaniel Wu, 12


Family is a wonderful thing.

They love you as their child.

You should play with family most.

They love you and you will feel mild.

Play with them, hang out with them.

They will never mind.

Make dinner with them,

and eat with them.

Many reasons you will find.

You celebrate with them,

Have fun with them.

Christmas, Thanksgiving, your birthday.

Thank your parents for having you,

Your family will say YAY!

It will make their day.

— Julia Yue, 11


Friends are friends,

Friendship never ends.

They will always love you,

And you will love them too.

Friends are friends,

Friendship never ends.

They are like family,

You will always see.

They love you, hug you,

Play with you, and more.

They help you, smile at you,

And open the door

For you.

— Julia Yue, 11

Where is my Puppy Dog?

Where is my puppy dog,

The one that is long gone?

Where is my puppy dog,

Is he in the log?

Where is my puppy dog,

Is he in the fog?

Where is my puppy dog,

The one that loves meat?

Where is my puppy dog,

The one that loves biting feet?

Where is my puppy dog,

Is he in the willow?

Where is my puppy dog?

Oh! I found him under my pillow!

— Julia Yue, 11

It’s a Crazy Life!


BEEP! BEEP! Went the alarm clock to my right. I opened my crusty eyes, and gave the clock a good, hard,


I groaned, and closed my eyes again, pulling the bedcovers back over my head.

“Nuh-uh! Oh no you don’t!” Called a voice from my doorway. “Don’t you DARE go back to sleep!” They pulled the sheets right off my mattress, and

shoveled me out of my bed. “Ah! WOAH!” The mysterious person held me in their arms, and switched the lights on. For a second, I went blind, but after that, my eyesight began to adjust.


I cried.


This time, he gave me a tight squeeze.

My big brother Tony is in his second year of college, so I almost NEVER get to see him. This year is my first year in high school. We’re six and a half years apart. But, this month, he’s visiting home!

“I didn’t know that you were coming home so soon!” I gasped. At this, Tony’s brow raised. “Really? Mom was supposed ‘ta tell you.”

“Well, she didn’t.”

“Well, she was SUPPOSED to.”

“Who was supposed to do WHAT?” Called yet another voice from my “wondrous” doorway. Tony and I turned to see my OTHER brother:

Rubin. Samuel. Cole. He’s my twin.

“Well, well, well. If it isn’t mywiddle baby brudder; Sam.” Rubin just rolled his eyes and crossed his arms. “Dude! I’m the same age as Vanessa, and you don’t call her your widdle baby brud-I- I mean widdle baby shisder?

OW!” I held my pillow back, Sam rubbing his arm.

“Heh. Nice Sammy, gettin’ your butt kicked by a girl! OW!” This time, it was Tony rubbing his arm. “Geez girl! You sure hit hard,” he said, looking

at the clock. “Say, what time does your school start?” Rubin’s eyes went wide for a second, then looked at the clock and gave out a sigh of relief.

“In about an hour and a half.”

“Oh! We gotta get ready then! Freshman year’s starting! Plus, moving to a new house, AND a new school, means: new friends, teachers, and (ugh) even new enemies. So… chop-chop!” I said pushing them out of my room. As I closed my door, I heard my mom call, “Rubin! Vanessa! Go and get ready for school!” Then, her door closed.

“Outfit? Check.

Pencils? Check.

Binder? Check.

Backpack? Check!

I’m all ready for school.” I said, capping the pen to my mental checklist.

“Yo! Loch-Ness! Breakfast!” called Tony from downstairs.


I whispered while pumping my fist. “COMING!” I pulled everything into my backpack, slung it over my shoulder, and dashed downstairs.

As I ran to the table, I saw mom, Jasper: my baby brother, and Sam all eating waffles. “Ah! Come to join us Nessie?” Mom chimed. “First day of

high school for my two little rascals!”

“We’re not so little anymore mom,” Sam said, cramming more food into the seemingly endless abyss, that was his mouth.

“Ooh, I know, but it seems like only yesterday I was driving you to your first day of preschool!” Mom said, clasping her hands to her cheeks.

“Enough idle chit-chat. Ness. Eat. Now.” Tony shoved a plate of waffles and mixed apple slices into my hands, sat me in my chair, and gently patted

me on the head. I just sighed and started to eat.

“Bye, Mom!” Sam and I shouted from the end of the driveway. “Good luck!” Mom called out in reply.

As we reached the end of the road, Sam broke our silence.

“I wonder what it’ll be like.”

“If I sit alone at lunch, will you come and sit with me?”

“Of course, Sis.”

— Emily Calderon, 12

The Snowdrop

The meek little


Standing alone in

The garden,

Trembling in the

Frigid, winter wind,

Shaking its little

Bell shaped head

Of delicate petals

White and dainty

As angels.

A little flower of hope,

That spring would come


— Sofia Marin, 11

That One Vampire

It's a long, dark, and freezing fall night. I look up at the sky, to see the full moon bigger than it has ever been before. As I walk deeper into the woods, I can only hear the soft crunch of the dry leaves beneath my shoes, and nothing else. Unexpectedly, I hear a soft shuffling noise. I feel like something is behind me and watching me. I knew somebody was following me.

All I had on my mind is to find my best friend, Chloe, who went missing after we found a vampire tooth stabbed in a book last night. I can smell the blood getting stronger, and stronger every second. Suddenly, I feel a lot of pressure around my neck as something grabs me. This person is not who I thought it would be. I turn around to find my best friend right in front of me. I could see from the bright moon light that she had blood all over her face. I knew that she was not her normal self. Something terrifying has happened to her.

As I open my mouth to speak, Chloe smacks her bloody hand onto my mouth and says quietly in a creaky voice, “Welcome to MY world.” Still muffling, I see a tall dark shadow coming towards us. Before I try to break free, the shadow adds on in a deep and mysterious voice, “Yes … Welcome. I'm sure you'll enjoy it .…”

— Nikki Ranpour, 11

Best Gift

The best gift I have ever received was a Go-Kart. It is was the best because it was like a miniature car. Also it was easy and

pleasant to drive around my driveway. I also raced my brother in his Go-Kart.

— Neel Singh, 11


Lauren Ty


Hi, my name is Lauren Ty. I am 11 years old and I go to Hoover Middle School. I like doing many different things like sports, art, singing and dancing. My painting represents me because as you can see there are four different colors. In each arrangement in the painting, I’ve put in the same colors but their form is different. Each of those pieces of work represents my different traits. For example, I am athletic and adventurous, dog/friend/family lover, hardworking and intelligent, and the biggest of all … goofball! All of the pieces of work put together represent me and all my different traits. Like how all the colors come together to create this work of art, all of my traits come together to create me. Every day I show my different traits. Like on a math test, I am very focused and hardworking. In gym, I am athletic and run around a lot. With family and friends, I am loving and free to be myself. All day, I am silly whether it is around friends or teachers, whether it is at school or at home. There is never a day where I am not myself, and I do not show my traits. I hope you liked my painting and my story behind it.

— Lauren Ty, 6th grade

Second Chances

I clutched the hand of my mother as we entered the halls of Lakewood Middle School. Throngs of students passed us, and teachers holding manila folders scurried everywhere like frantic mice.

My family had moved from Ohio, and I was continuing eighth grade in Michigan. I wouldn’t have cared as much if I’d started on the first day of school, but I had to start in January when the social groups had been determined and the teachers knew if a student was a troublemaker.

The principal didn’t seem to like children. He handed me my agenda book and started a conversation with my mother.

Walking through the school was like walking through a corn maze. Hallways stretched in all directions, and posters dangled from the polished white bricks. By the time I found my locker, the bell clanged, and students cleared from the hallway to their classrooms like being sucked away by magnets.

Frenziedly, I stuffed my backpack into my tomato-red locker and closed it. I was ready for anything.

Apparently, I wasn’t. When I creaked open the door of my first period, 24 pairs of eyes swiveled toward me. Instantly, my face turned as red as my locker. A man in a Patriots jersey turned around from a desk, and his whole face lit up like a desk lamp. “You must be Sarah!” He said to the class, “Class, this is Sarah. She’s a new student. Could you tell us about yourself?” I’m not great at public speaking at the best of times, but when the piercing stares of 24 students are drilling into me, I break apart. So, I stood there like a bump on a log while whispers traveled around the room.

The teacher cut in quickly, “Alright, my name is Mr. Campbell, and I’m your Period 1 teacher. I teach English.” Mr. Campbell checked a blue notebook and pointed to a desk in the corner of the room, back row, right next to the vent. Finally, he handed me a stack of thick paper and nudged me gently toward my seat.

After what felt like an infinity of Shakespeare, I finally escaped my classroom into the buzzing halls. Lunch –– my favorite –– was next. I felt a tap on my shoulder as I was opening my locker and turned around to see a girl with gold-copper hair smiling at me.

“Hi! I’m Nicole. I’m in your English class. I’m sitting at Table 6A if you want to sit with us. It’s next to the vending machines.” She flounced away before I could say anything.

I hadn’t walked far until I noticed Nicole and two other girls snickering near the water fountains. Nicole pointed at me, and the girls erupted in laughter. My face flared pink, and I felt like a spotlight was pointed at me. I turned around and raced away.

I made my way down to the cafeteria, following the crowds. Nicole and her clique were already there, at Table 6A as she had promised. From the entrance, they could be spotted a million miles away. I breathed and walked slowly toward the table. Nicole, unfortunately, recognized me immediately and beckoned me over.

“This is Sarah,” Nicole announced. “She’s new.” The girls surveyed me closely and my blushes resumed. I sat down on the edge of a bench, and I was forgotten while the other girls gossiped about the eighth grade.

Immediately, the group starting chattering about a girl named Brittany Hagerson. Nicole’s clique was not a fan of her and regarded her with a nasty tone.

I felt a deep pang for whoever Brittany was. “Who’s Brittany?” I asked. Nicole rolled her eyes and replied, “Brittany is this girl who no one likes. We were best friends in third grade, but when her dad died, Brittany missed the whole fourth grade. When she returned in fifth grade, she became all quiet. No one knows why.”

The next day, I stepped into the school building, and surprisingly, a group of eighth graders who I didn’t know smiled at me and exclaimed, “Hey Sarah!”

My days were brighter after that. People thought me as one of them, but I never stopped wondering about Brittany.

During the week after spring break, I was talking with Ivy — Nicole’s best friend — at the lunch table. I saw a girl, deep in a novel, walk into the lunchroom from the back entrance and sit down by herself at the corner table. Kids tossed food and laughed all around her, but she was isolated alone in her little land at the corner lunch table, eating a ham-and-cheese sandwich. I recognized her as Brittany.

My thoughts kicked in. Should I protect my reputation and stay at Nicole’s table, or lose everything and talk to her? Since I thought my social status was more important than a girl who lacked friends, I stayed and, for the first time, joined in on the taunting of Brittany Hagerson.

It was 5th period. Ms. Quincy explaining the quadratic formula was interrupted by the crackling of the loudspeaker and the secretary croaking, “Ms. Quincy, could you have Sarah Quinn come down to the guidance office right now?”

My Math teacher looked at me and said, “Go ahead.” My mind swirled with fear during my journey. Was it about Brittany? The guidance counselor, Mrs. Darcy, was waiting in her office when I walked in. “Hi Sarah,” she stated calmly. Seeing my wide-eyed stare, she continued, “You’re not in trouble.” Relieved, I pulled the padded chair from the table and sat. Mrs. Darcy’s office smelled like lavender perfume. Her twins were playing soccer from behind the picture frame on her desk, and a purple Pilot pen was positioned at exactly 180° in front of it.

The guidance counselor stretched her lips up in what looked almost like a smile. She began, “Have you heard of Brittany Hagerson?” I nodded. “Well, I’m sure you know what happened to her. Her leaving her elementary school for a year was a big shock for the county, and we’ve been trying to do everything we could to help Brittany. However, I’m going to have to ask you a favor.

“Could you sit with Brittany at lunch? Until she’s ready to socialize again, as she has been sitting by herself for three years ever since she entered school again in fifth grade. I’m sure you understand her pain, seeing what a nice girl you are. You just need to talk to her a little bit.” I gulped. I could imagine myself after being seen sitting with the girl everyone despised. “Sure,” I wheezed before I could think, my throat caught.

Mrs. Darcy looked relieved. “Great!” When I returned to Math class, butterflies were still flying in a big knot in my stomach. What had I done?

I sat at Brittany’s table the next day. The lunch line was a mile long; the tables mostly empty.

My companion for the period shuffled into the cafeteria right after I had sat down. I was munching on some chips when Brittany lifted her head and saw me. She sat down on the other end of the bench but kept the corner of her eye on me like an abandoned dog.

Picking up my lunch, I slid down until I was next to her. “Hey,” I said. “I’m Sarah. You’re Brittany, right?” She nodded, and I noticed she had an aroma of chocolate.

I continued, “Do you bake? You smell really good.” Surprised, Brittany nodded again. “Yeah, actually,” she squeaked. “I made some cookies this morning. Do you want one?” She offered me a cookie from a small bag, and I accepted, grateful.

By the time the bell rang, we were chatting like old friends. Brittany had a big Labrador, lived with her mom, and loved baking.

However, as I was leaving the lunchroom, a big smile on my face, Nicole caught up to me. “Why did you sit with that troll today instead of us?” My heart lurched at the name Nicole had called Brittany.

I replied, my heart beating like a drum, “Mrs. Darcy made me. She said that I have to sit with her until she has friends again.” Before I could stop myself, I added, “Actually she’s really nice, once you get to know her.”

Nicole chuckled, “What? You like her? What’s wrong with you?” I stood there while she left, contemplating what she’d said.

But my thoughts lingered in one place. Did I say the right thing to the gossip queen?

Back from the weekend, I was overwhelmed by the rumors circulating around me at school. Everyone was talking about the girl who was forced to sit with the depressed kid “against her own will.” I was determined to find Nicole to prevent Brittany’s feelings being hurt. Everyone within a five-mile radius of Nicole knew about me — but it wasn’t anything good.

Nicole and Ivy were talking near Nicole’s locker. When I went up to them, Nicole backed away, holding her arms out like a shield. “No, no, Sarah,” she smirked, “Please be at least 2 feet away from us at all times. We don’t let losers into our group.” They walked away, laughing cruelly.

Tears sprang up to my eyes. I stood there in the middle of the hallway, feeling like a loser. Why had Nicole suddenly called me out? I hurried into the bathroom and wept until the bell chimed for 1st period.

I sat quietly in English, doing my work silently. Nicole glared at me throughout the class, scribbling notes on graph paper to her friends. Mr. Campbell asked me as I went up to turn in my essay, “What’s with the troubled face, Sarah? You’re usually so loud. I could barely get a word out of you today.” I shrugged and went back to my seat.

The next day, I didn’t get up, and Mom came into my room. “Sarah!” she called angrily, “I’m not going to drag you out of bed. Get up. Now.”

I sniffled and said, “I can’t. I’m sick. I think I need to stay home today.” I would do anything to escape embarrassment, even if it meant tricking my mom into thinking I was sick.

She placed her hand on my forehead. “Well, you do seem a little warm. You’re right, stay in bed today. I’ll be at work, and call if you need anything.” Mom quietly left the room and I heard the door click.

After all that had happened, I knew I couldn’t return to school.

But I had to return to school. On Thursday, when I was “cured,” Mom packed my lunch, shoved me like a sack of potatoes into the car, and drove me to school. “You need to make up your Algebra test, okay? Make sure you tell Ms. Quincy, or she’ll forget.”

While I sat with Brittany at the lunch table, a girl holding a green lunch tray came to our table. “Hey, is anyone sitting here?” she asked, and we shook our heads. “My name is Emily, and I’m the SGA President. I really admire what you did for Brittany, Sarah. What made you take on the challenge?”

I knew I couldn’t say Mrs. Darcy made me. “Well,” I began, “I wasn’t always this way. I guess it just took me some time to realize it’s what’s on the inside of a person that counts.”

Emily nodded, and I could tell she really understood me.

For the rest of the year, nothing came up between Nicole and me. We simply gave each other brief stares in the hallway. Brittany and I became inseparable, but I was never “popular” again. I didn’t care, but sometimes I thought about what could have happened if I sided with Nicole. I guess I’ll never know.

What I learned that year in eighth grade will stay with me forever. The inside of a person can hold treasures, and each and every person has a story to tell.

— Jessica Qiu, 7th grade

Artist Statement: 64% of kids bullied do not report it; only 36% of kids do. I wrote Second Chances because I wanted to recognize the bullying that happens in schools everywhere. Brittany got a second chance when Sarah was forced by the guidance counselor to be friends with her. Sarah learns that even though Brittany was “the dumb, quiet girl” on the outside, she had a motivated soul. Brittany had an amazing story to tell, and with Sarah, she had a chance to communicate it.