• Alley Dunn

The New Kid.

The New Kid.

It was my title for pretty much all of elementary and high school, so much so, that when I went to college, I had a hard time adjusting to the fact that everyone was the new kid instead of just me. I went to nine different schools growing up, yup you read it right, nine. I went to a different high school every year. Most people assumed my family was military with how much we moved but my parents were actually pastors and so we went around to lot of different churches in Ontario.

I currently live in Stratford (which is where I was born). My husband and I just moved back here….yup I’m still moving in my adult life. I have a sweatshirt that says Stratford. I also have one that says Peterborough, which is where I lived last. I saw recently that even the Ottawa valley has shirts! The valley is where I spent most of my childhood and so I told my husband that I wanted one. He looked at me and said “Al, if we get you a shirt for everywhere you lived we are going to be broke”, he’s not wrong. You'll see. My husband grew up in Peterborough his whole life so it was hard for him to understand why we moved so much. It took a long time for him to remember every place that I’ve lived and which friends are from what town. When we moved this most recent time, a first for him, it was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I can truly say that my “new kid” days definitely prepared me for figuring out how to adjust to life in a new town.

You ready for it? Here goes my new kid timeline. 

The first time we moved I was pretty young, so I’ll admit that I don’t remember it. The second time I was a bit older as I had just started grade one, so I remember this move a little better. We moved to a small town named Cobden and I was lucky enough to live there for 6 years. Until my family moved to Peterborough (which is where the rest of my family still currently lives), Cobden was the place that we lived the longest. I have great memories there and because I started in grade one, making new friends was pretty easy.

Then we moved when I was in the middle of 7th grade. There is something about 7th grade… I feel like it’s the year you find out who people are going to be as they get older, they start to show personality traits that seem to stick and unfortunately it also seems to be the year when the “mean girl” can appear. Now when I say, ‘mean girl’, I’m not talking about girls who are out to hate on everyone, I just mean that girls start to decide who they will and will not hang out with and appoint themselves as the judge of who is deserving of their friendship or not. There seems to be a specific few girls in the class who dictate who comes to who’s birthday and who gets to sit beside them in the school assemblies. Is this familiar to anyone?

Anyways, I would deem grade seven as my worst year. The town I had moved to was Goderich and I was arriving in the middle of the school year- not awesome timing. To make matters worse, it was a small town and everyone had grown up together so I really felt like I didn’t fit in. Looking back, I now realize something about this particular move, and maybe this is something worth paying attention to if you’re in a similar situation; the thing that REALLY made things worse for me, was that I never tried. I let fear take over and I made the decision to give up before things had a chance to get started. My anxiety won the day. I had made up my mind that I didn’t have a place in that school and so my siblings and I begged our parents to send us to a new school when the year was done.

It happened. The following year (grade eight) I started at a new school. It was a catholic school and my parents had heard great things about the academic program there and had decided that a fresh start couldn’t hurt us. This time I had decided that I was not going to let fear run things, I was not going to allow myself “not to fit in.” I would find my place. I immediately found a girl that I had played on a soccer team with in the summer and basically put myself in the middle of her friend group (you will be my friend lol). I then joined student council and a few weeks later was voted the female grade eight rep for our school. I excelled in this role and learned to love leadership.

Academics weren’t necessarily hard for me, but I did have to put quite a bit of effort in to keep them up. Sports were similar, I loved sports but wasn’t a natural and had to work hard to keep up. For some reason, student council was different. It was like second nature. The organization, the events, the public speaking (I know I am weird, I love public speaking). I had found my niche. Finally! But guess what?! Grade eight means you graduate… which means a new school! Again. Granted this time I had friends to go into it with but high school is still full of new and I would find myself once again, among the new kids.

Grade nine wasn’t too bad, I took the year off of student council and figured that I would focus on sports because that’s what all of my friends were doing and it was way more comfortable then joining student council where I didn’t know a single person! Bad idea… I didn’t make a single team and all of my friends did. I was alone again and was really missing that feeling of belonging I had when I was in leadership with student council. I ended up focusing on some other areas, but I so wish that I would have been brave enough to put myself out there and join in on something I knew that I really loved.

Grade ten, time to move again. Are you keeping up? My high school in grade nine was a very strict, high academic standing and very small catholic school where we had uniforms and security guards making sure we didn’t skip class. Grade ten was a bit different. We moved to a downtown Kitchener high school that had -quadrupole the amount of kids at our old school and a lot of “interesting” characteristics to it. It was rough to say the least, and we felt scarily out of place. Luckily my parents were always my biggest supporters and set up a meeting with the guidance counsellor before the school year began.

The guidance counsellor informed me of student council and I told her that I would be joining for sure. I wanted to. I needed to. Except, I didn’t. After my first day of school I was so terrified of the overwhelming change of atmosphere that I decided once again not to pursue student council. Fear strikes again…. and once again I regretted it. I was very involved in leadership outside of school which helped, but school was very dry. I made a few friends by simply forcing people to talk to me in class (desperate times) and after finding a few that would talk back, I stopped eating my lunch with my sister and started eating it with my new friends.

Grade eleven, yup you got it, a new school. I was considering going into the medical field and there was a brand new school in Kitchener that had started a pre-med student program in their high school. It was perfect and so I transferred. This “new” was my own personal choice and I was determined to make the best of it. I joined student council, hooray! And I made a ton of friends through student council and through my medical program.

Two of those friends are to this day, some of my best friends. I also decided to join the drama club and auditioned for the part of a play. I LOVED this. I loved everything about my new school, I love being so involved, I felt like I had such an important role in my body of students and I felt that way because I decided to jump. I decided I had had enough chances and this was the time to make it right. Have you noticed that this is the first time I have said that the friends I made at that school are still my friends today? Its because I actually invested myself into those friendships.

Grade twelve, final year… new school.

Yes, we moved in my final year of high school. Hardest move ever. I was so happy, in fact we even tried to make plans that would allow me to board with a family from our church and stay in Kitchener for my final year of school. At the last minute it didn’t work out and I had to make the move with my family. But this time I was a veteran. I knew the drill, as sad as I was, I wasn’t about to let this school be another flop. So, I started going up to our new town Peterborough on the weekends and making friends within the small community of people that my parents had introduced us to. By the time school started I already knew several people and I was in that student council meeting first thing. That year I was voted in as secretary for the entire Kawartha student council board. That meant that me and 4 others met on a regular basis to decide how to run the student councils in every school in Peterborough. How cool is that? It was an incredible opportunity. I also tried out on a whim for field hockey and I managed to make the varsity team. Three weeks in and NO ONE was calling me the new kid.

By the time college came around I felt like a pro. I mean I should be by now right? I made friends immediately and found my place like I knew I belonged. Mind you, I’d had a lot of practice. I look back and think of how much more I could have enjoyed my other schools if I would have just been brave enough to step out and do my own thing. But, for those of you who have lived through this even if it means one change, a new school can be scary and being new can be intimidating. I really am so thankful for the times where I did step out and I love what I gained from it.

I know that that was a lot to follow. If you’ve made this far in reading and are still with me, I would love to encourage any fellow ‘new kids’ out there:

Be brave, be kind and take risks until you find something that you’re good at, something that brings you joy. It might take awhile but don’t give up. Take it from someone who by now you know has been there. It's worth it. I promise. You will find like-minded friends in the process who will hopefully help you remove that “new kid” label and just be “you."

Chances are that you won’t move as many times as I did, but it’s a guarantee hat you will experience a change at one point or another. It doesn’t have to be negative. It doesn’t have to hold you back or trip you up. Change ALWAYS has the potential to bring with it great adventure. Live yours out fully.

Fighting for you always,


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