Gym bag
By Tyler Bao, AmeriCorps member serving on the CSX team at The English High School

I aimlessly strolled around The English High School lunchroom. I tried smiling as if to say, “Hey, how’s everyone doing?” but my insides were saying, “No, no. Pretend that no one is looking at you.” All the memories of my freshman year and the awkward lunch where I sat by myself came flying back to me.

“Hey Tyler, come here!” another AmeriCorps member called out to me. He was standing next to a tall student. 

“Hi, I’m Varian*,” the student greeted me.

I felt my anxiety melt away as Varian and I quickly fell into conversation. Varian was new to the school as well. He told me he’d moved several times throughout his high school career. I knew how he felt as his story sounded a lot like my own first day of high school. The words came out my mouth before I even realized that I was sharing this personal story with him. 

But it opened the door and we continued to connect over our commonalities. He mentioned an interest in football—but confided he wasn’t sure how to join the high school team. I promised to help get him in contact with the school’s Athletics Director. The next day, Varian invited me to join him for lunch again. We began talking more about football and school, and the fact that they call it you a “student-athlete” because academics are important and can help take you anywhere.

When I think back to that very first day in lunch—and the fear I felt at not knowing anyone—I’m thankful that Varian reached out to me. I’m enjoying mentoring and connecting with this student-athlete. I’ve come to realize is that many of the things in life that begin with fear, end in joy. 

*Name changed to protect student privacy

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