Back to School, Into Wonderland

Here in New York, it’s back to school for the city’s 1.1 million students. We saw them on our morning commutes today for the first time since June, heading to school on foot, bike, bus, and train, new backpacks in tow and nervous smiles on their faces.

We thought back to what the first day of school was like for us, growing up in other cities around the country. Here are some of the CBASS staff and partners’ favorite memories. Add yours in the comments below.

I grew up in Florida, where seasons were marked only as “wet” or “dry,” and “hot” or “hotter,” so I didn’t have the crisp fall air to signal a change. My favorite memories of going back to school coincided with everything that signaled a fresh start: going to the drugstore with my mom to pick out a snappy new Trapper Keeper, selecting clean notebooks (one for each class), ink-filled pens and sharp pencils, and, of course, new clothes. Most of all, I remember the butterflies in my stomach with excitement for all the surprises that a new year of friendships and learning would bring.   –Jessica Donner, CBASS

On my first day of 6th grade P.E. (remember P.E.?), I met a girl who played basketball aggressively and wasn’t afraid to disagree with others—and loudly. I, shy and eager to please everyone I met, didn’t like her much. The next year, we were in the same math class and got assigned to work together. Despite my aversion to group work, we got along well and even chose to be running partners in that year’s P.E. class. Today, she’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. It goes to show first impressions aren’t the only ones that count.   –Nina Agrawal, CBASS

As a half-day, afternoon kindergarten student, I missed the rush of kids into the building on the first day of school. When I arrived, the door—which appeared to be from Alice in Wonderland—was too big for me to open. After a few minutes of pulling as hard as I could (thinking that maybe school was just not for me), someone came to my rescue.  It looked up from there—the staff at Rice Square School in Worcester were kind, attentive, and personally interested in our success.   –Chris Smith, Boston Afterschool and Beyond

On the first day of the 4th grade at Isla Vista Elementary, the first thing our teacher, Ms. Schuyler did, was teach each of the students how to give her a shoulder massage, and throughout the year we took turns rubbing her shoulders while she graded papers. It was brilliant! She was a fantastic, warm, caring teacher with the best laugh and bright red hair piled on top of her head. A memorable year.   –Jennifer Peck, Partnership for Children and Youth

When thinking of my daughter’s childhood, both she and I most remember buying school supplies and getting new books at the beginning of the year.   –Suzette Harvey, Prime Time Palm Beach County

On my first day of the 6th grade, I tried out for the girls’ basketball team. I had no interest in basketball, but I was worried my best friend would drop me as her BFF if I didn’t go with her. The try-outs felt monumentally difficult. But over the course of those three days, my experience epitomized why we encourage girls to play sports: I learned how to pick myself up from failure, and how to receive both constructive feedback and praise with grace. I came to recognize the coach as a mentor, and the entire experience built my confidence. At the end, I made the team. (It still holds the school’s all-time best win-loss record for a season).   –Lauren Bierbaum, Partnership for Youth Development

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