Sixth grader excels in Scholastic Reading Clubs competition

    Highland Elementary sixth grader Reese Swanson was recently selected as one of the ten Runners Up Winners of Scholastic Reading Clubs’ “Setting the Scene” contest and she told the Times she was “really excited” she won. Swanson, a member of Mrs. Stegman’s class and daughter to Kristy and Jeremy, received a Rita Williams-Garcia Library of books for being chosen as a Runner Up Winner.

    A Scholastic Reading Clubs representative told Swanson they were privileged to receive “extraordinary entries” from young writers across the country.

    “The challenge of the contest - to establish a setting using language that elicits all five senses in the reader - was not an easy one and yet, we received a great many entries that really succeeded in meeting that challenge!” Scholastic’s Betsy Howie wrote in a letter to Swanson. “It was not easy to narrow down the entrants to the few that would be recognized as winners. But, after much discussion, your entry was selected as one of the winning group!”

“A Day Like No Other”
Reese Swanson, 12, 6th grade
Mrs. Stegman - Highland Elementary School

    On a day too hot to be September, I got a letter that said I had been accepted to be at an all white school, I had to take a test before I could even see the school, I’m excited and also nervous. I am the first African American in that school, but I’m really smart, well, at least that’s what my mama and papa said.

    When the day came to go to school I was nervous about what everyone would think of me, I felt sick to my stomach, my head started to spin. It felt like the ground was shaking, but then all of a sudden my big brother Clayton said to me, “You are going to be fine Ann, I was nervous on my first day of school too.” I thought for a second then said, “Yeah, but you didn’t go to an all white school, Clayton. It’s different and you know that you just don’t want to admit it.” The words I have never heard from Clayton came out of his mouth, “you’re right.” I was shocked. I couldn’t say anything else because I was going to be late for school if I didn’t leave right away, so I went into the kitchen and grabbed my lunch bag out of the fridge and left.

    On my way to school, there was this scent in the air, it smelled like freshly cut grass and syrup from maple trees. As I was walking I could feel the cool air rushing past my face as if I was running a marathon. The leaves felt as if they were cotton. It was so pretty where I lived I never wanted to leave that place, but here I am going to school on the north side while I live on the south side of the city. To me the south side was more pretty than the north side, on the north side there are tons of skyscrapers and subways, but on the south side there are beautiful trees and flowers.

    As I got to my new school people started staring at me like I was an animal, which I’m not, but most whites think colored people are monsters. Some fight for us, but only a few people do that, and they get punished for believing we are not bad. So anyway, back to me going in the school. It smelt like someone had just washed the floor. It looked so clean at that school they even had a bathroom inside of the school. In my old school we had to go to an out house. Our teacher, Mrs. Cherry was really nice, she told me once, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” That inspired me to be the best student in her class and every time I felt down and she knew about it, she would put me back on my feet. But my new teacher, Mrs. Henry didn’t like me, probably because she thinks what everybody else thinks of me too, just a monster that doesn’t deserve anything.

    At lunchtime I sat alone, which I thought was going to happen. Then some guys came up to me and said some stuff I should not say, but then a girl walked up to me after they had left and asked me if I was ok. I said I was fine but I really wasn’t. I had never been treated that way in my life before. After that conversation she came to sit with me, her friends didn’t like that she was sitting with me though. She said “Hi, my name is Annie, what’s yours?” I said “My name is Ann.” “That’s really cool! You just take off the ‘ie’ in my name and it’s your name, isn’t that cool?” “Yeah it is,” I said.

    After school while I was walking home Annie asked me if she could come to my house. She said she already asked her mama, so I said it would be ok. When we got to my house, we went out back to do our homework. After we did our homework we went in the woods to my treehouse, but on the way there, there was a blueberry bush that I had never seen before. It wasn’t poisonous, so we had a few blueberries. As soon as I tasted the blueberries my five senses blew up. They tasted bitter, but the right amount of sweet. They looked as if you could keep them as souvenirs. The smell was of nature and berries combined. When I bit into one, the skin on the outside made a sweet crunch. They were as smooth as my baby brothers skin. Annie didn’t like the taste of them, but she probably never had tasted a fresh, hand-picked blueberry. When it was time for Annie to leave, I felt sad. I had never had a close friend. I never had a chance to find a true friendship. All the people at my old school thought I was the teacher’s pet, but now my teacher hates me and everyone in my class, too, except Annie. In my life I have learned that sometimes we get bruised, sometimes we get knocked down, but I have the will, the courage, and the ability to get up.