“New Kid.” Ahh … yes! I was the new kid a few times. I remember it as being a very lonely and challenging time, especially when changing schools and not knowing a soul.

Her mother’s death when she was in seventh grade was the start of several years of dramatic change for Shirley Penrod. Photo courtesy of Margie Thumm

My first challenge was seventh grade after the passing of my mother. We moved to another town, so everything was completely new to me: the house we lived in, the grocery stores and, especially, the school. But it wasn’t our house where we lived at first; we became boarders with other families for the balance of my seventh-grade year. 

The school was completely different, as I had previously attended Catholic school. I seemed to be so far ahead of the new school academically. At first, I would raise my hand to answer almost every time a question was asked. However, it soon dawned on me that I was doing it much too much, and I started to hang back so as not to have the other kids resent me.

I was the new kid, and it wasn’t an easy transition from my mother’s death to boarding with strangers and from Catholic school to public. Everything was so, so different. I knew no one. However, it didn’t take too long before I had my own little group of kids who welcomed me into their clan. For the most part, it became OK.

Because of circumstances beyond anyone’s control, I had to move again, this time to within my family, and, though not Catholic school, into familiar territory. Again, I was the “new kid” who knew no one. I must say it didn’t take long to meet and befriend the neighborhood kids, and after starting eighth grade as the new kid, I made and kept many new friends. This was my second go at being a new kid, and it wasn’t quite as difficult as the first time. Some of those I met on my second go are still my friends.

After that, I traveled with my husband (who was in the military) and many, many times was the new person in the group. I must say, though, that by this time it was a smooth transition and I no longer had that feeling of being the “new kid” wherever I went. Friends were made easily, and I think I can attribute that to the fact that I had the experience of being the new kid, more than once, and knew that the newness would wear off before long and life would be good again. And it taught me to always give a warm and friendly welcome to anyone going through the experience of being the new kid.

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