If you take a walk through the crowded hallways of Greenbrier Middle School, you will walk through a mass of predominantly Caucasian Christian students. Maybe, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll stumble upon someone of a different skin color or religious viewpoint.
My frustration was beginning to boil over when I was introduced to Masiel Reyes. Just thirteen years old, she made the complicated and lengthy immigration from El Salvador to the United States. She speaks no English.
Unfortunately, Masiel is not in any of my classes. I didn’t know her until about her second week of school. I pointed her out and asked one of my friends who she was. My friend explained that she is from South America. Immediately interested, I decided to write her a letter in Spanish.
With the assistance of an online translator and my father, I managed to choke out a clumsily-worded letter. Though my Spanish is not very good, I think she understood what I was trying to say.
She wrote me back, and I was thrilled. We continued to communicate through letters until one day we decided to sit together at lunch. The night before that day, I ran through as much Spanish as I knew and scribbled it down in a notebook. I even used the translator and my dad again to help add more words to my very limited Spanish vocabulary.
Conversations were awkward and not very clear, but we still managed to have a good time being in each other’s presence. At one point, we even made fun of teachers that were monitoring our lunch period and friends that were sitting nearby.
When I really look into this girl’s situation, I understand how hard it must be. She has been thrown into an environment that she isn’t familiar with. She has been mixed with people who don’t speak the same language as she does. Unfortunately, not all of these people are very understanding of her circumstances.
Masiel has already had to deal with several racist remarks. She dealt with cheerleaders mocking her at lunch and saying that she was going to grow up and “steal our jobs”. She has dealt with people not wanting to even use the same bathroom stall as her because of her skin color. I find this absolutely appalling.
It’s unbelievable how close-minded some people can be. She is not diseased because her skin is brown. She is not a criminal because she comes from a different country.
I will do the best that I possibly can to help Masiel make a smooth transition here in redneck Tennessee. I will stick up for her if I see people making fun of her, and assist her with her schoolwork if she wants my help.
Good luck, Masiel.