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Att Set, Soldier

“I would like to thank each and every one of you in the audience for supporting me. I, in turn, promise to support you as you do me, to prove to you that you made the right choice. You have taken time to think about the leader you would elect to be yours, and concluded with the decision of myself. I will make sure I remain true to the position and responsibility you hold me to.” As the newly elected presidents speech was washed out by the applause from both students and teachers alike, I felt a new presence behind me. I did not even notice the young man sitting at seven’o’clock. It took me a moment to notice him leaning closer as to get in earshot.
“Hi,” he said in a whispered voice. I could not tell if he was greeting me or wishing me farewell. I figured he was not saying “bye” since we had not even met yet.
“Hello…” I said back. I was not used to being approached by strangers, even within my grade. The boy looked familiar, however I had never seen him at my school before. He must have been a new student. I must have seen him at the park or the mall in the past.
“Hey can you help me-I don’t know what class I’m supposed to be in-who’s he on stage…” The boy was speaking so rapidly that I could hardly understand him, especially with the president’s booming voice coming through the speakers on stage. Even though I had already figured the student was new to our school, my mind told me to ask him if he was anyway. I was afraid that if he was, he would feel ignored and unheard when I told him I had never seen him in class before. I asked anyway.
“You are new to the school?” I already knew the answer.
“Yep.” he replied with the same near-silent voice. I wanted to tell him that I had seen him before, but he interrupted me with his high-paced way of communicating. “I need to know what class to be in-who’s the kid on stage with the loud voice?”
“Calm down.” I tried to comfort him from the worried state he appeared to be in. “I do not know what class you are supposed to be in. Everyone in the school has a different schedule. The secretary in the office can help you if you tell her your name-”
“Do all of you speak so formally?”
“What do you mean by ‘formally?’” I did not find any major differences between our ways of talking. He did not use any type of slang so I was confused myself when he asked why our students spoke in such a fashion.
“You know…You never use contractions or slang when you speak.”
“You do not either…” I then remembered him using “don’t” and “who’s” many times along with less formal replies such as “yep.”
“I try not to,” he said as he looked towards the new student government president who would hold that title for at least the next year.
“To answer your question, no. Not all students in the school speak like I do. However, in order to look more formal for the school, many of them have adopted a more formal version of the english language.” I did not want to worry him even more by telling him about the school policy…that being to look as mature as possible so parents want their children at the academy.
I moved to the next point to speed up the conversation. I needed to hear the president. “The student on stage is the student-government president of the school.”
“He’s,” The boy cut himself off. “He is the newly-elected student president?”
“Yes. He was just inaugurated as you walked up behind me. I do not know if you saw…”
“I saw. I’m just surprised to see a student so young taking the position. I’m used to seeing a junior or senior as student president.”
“I am too.” I replied.
“Anyway can you tell me what I’m supposed to be doing right now? What class should I be in? I just wandered into the stage room by accident.” The voice of the boy was back to the original state of worry it was in before. I could tell by the faster pace of the conversation. I was getting annoyed with the repetition in his speech as well.
“I am sorry but I do not know your schedule. I still recommend you ask to office.”
“Will they have my schedule?”
“I am sure they have it archived somewhere.”
“Actually, I don’t need someone to tell me my schedule,” I was shocked at the student’s response. He had wasted my time asking for my help only to tell me he did not need it. I still did not want to yell at the student. “I just need someone to show me around the school,” he said.
“There are plenty of people I am sure would be glad to help you. You could ask a teacher. You could ask a junior or senior. You could just ask the president.”
“That’s a good idea! I’ll introduce myself to the president and ask him!” The boy looked eager to make his voice heard by the new “well-known” student. I thought he was going to run up to the stage. He still had one question for me though. “Why couldn’t you help me?” I did not know how to respond. The best answer I had for him was the fact that I was a freshman just as he was.
“I am not a ‘popular’ student. I am just as new to the school as you are. I have only been here for a month and a half.”
“That’s longer than I’ve been here. And why does it matter that you’re not popular?”
“The popular students try to impress. They figure out all the smallest things about the school just to look like mentors to new students like yourself. They would know where all the classrooms are and every teacher’s name in them. They would be able to tell you the number of the hallway that leads to this room! The student-government president would know. He is popular.”
“Do you think I could ever become popular?” The boy asked.
“Of course,” I said. I did not have much more time to help him since the president was almost done speaking. I still did my best to come up with an honest and comforting answer.
“Thanks,” the boy said quickly.
“It was nice to get to talk to you. What is your name?” I wanted to quickly find out more about this mysterious new student.
“I’m Eli,” the boy said in his typical fast english style.
“I am Easton.”
“Hi Easton,” he said back.
“Eli,” I leaned in towards him as he did me to get my attention. “I am not the main character at this school. I do not have as many friends as you probably did at your old school.” The president had finished speaking. Students and teachers alike raced back to their classes. Eli disappeared into the crowd. All I saw was his surprised face reaction to my last comment. He must have assumed that if I was as well educated as I made myself sound, I must have been “popular.” I am not.

I ran against the flow of people coming my way. I had to get to the stage to ask the president for help around the school. What was actually thirty seconds of confused looks and shoves from other students felt like five minutes. I could hardly get through the crowd. It was only so long before I actually reached the president.
“What class am I supposed to be in?” I shouted to the stage. I felt like my voice was louder than it ever was before. I was afraid that everyone in the room would turn around and stare. I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot all about Easton’s lecture on formal communication. I felt embarrassed at the fact that I did not even introduce myself. The president did not speak back to me. He simply gave me a confused look and then walked off the stage, ran to his friends, and began laughing. He didn’t seem as formal as Easton made him out to be.

I ran after him. He must have heard me coming since he turned around the second my arm was within three feet of him.
“I’m new to the school. Can you help me?” I was almost out of breath even though I barely ran.
“Of course I can help you.” The president seemed to be more of a laid back type of student. “Are you lost?”
“Yes. All I really need is a tour of the school.”
“You found the right guy.”
“Do you know where I can get a schedule for my classes too?”
“I can help you with whatever you need. I have enough friends and resources to get any piece of information I need.”
“You’re popular?”
“I suppose so.” The president’s face grew smug. He didn’t even ask me my name as we walked to the computer lab. I didn’t know why he was bringing me here. “Here,” he said. “Log onto this computer. Once you are in, go to the school website and search for your name and profile. Your classes will be listed there.”
“Thanks,” I said. I felt more accepted and liked. I felt as if someone was actually willing to help me. Nobody was giving me strange looks anymore the way they did in the stage room. They simply acknowledged the fact that I was a student in their grade now too. It didn’t take long to find my schedule with the president’s help. Once I found out which class I belonged in, I headed to the room. I thanked the president one more time, and ran off. Little did I know, I would still get a chance to introduce myself, which I forgot to do again. I didn’t notice the president following me through the hallway until I reached the class. We were both taking the same course. I felt honored to be at the same academic level as the president. Once I sat down, the president came in the room. He sat right next to me.
“Hi,” I said. He waved back. I wanted to know his name. “Who are you?” I asked him. He took a moment to continue staring at the whiteboard in the front of the room, and then he looked to me.
“I am the president of the student council.”
“I heard. What’s your name?”
“I’m Michael. Now focus on the lesson. Copy down those notes on the Fibonacci sequence and I will talk to you after class.” I didn’t even know what the Fibonacci sequence was. I didn’t feel like I belonged in the class. I felt especially separated from people when the president, Michael, didn’t even ask me my name. The half-hour class eventually came to an end. The whole time, I waited for Michael to lean in towards me to help me with a math problem, of simply ask me my name. He came to me at my locker, which he also set up for me.
“I did not ask you your name yet. It is…”
“It’s Eli.”
“Hi Eli,” Michael’s voice was just as laid back sounding as his personality actually was.
“Are you popular?” I asked. I didn’t even think of what his reaction would be.
“Maybe I am. What do you mean by ‘popular’”
“I mean the fun kids. The laid back ones that don’t take things to seriously…” He cut me off.
“Eli, If I were not a serious student, I would not be in the position of president that I am in today.”
“Well not necessarily. People would like you if you were popular. You would have a ton of supporters.”
“Then I guess I am popular.” He sounded braggy again. He took a moment to process his own ego. “Eli,” he said. “Being popular means having the most connection. It means being able to communicate with the most amount of people. It means being a literal connector between groups of friends. As long as you have more than just one puny friend group, you will be considered popular.” I didn’t know how to react myself. While I was thinking, I noticed Michael walking faster down the hallway.
“President,” I ran after him. “Do you think I could ever be popular?”
“Of course you could.” I felt just as supported as I did when he helped me find my classes. “Remember Eli, the more relations you have with more people, the more ‘popular’ you will be.” He turned around and continued walking. “For the record Eli, you can call me Michael.”

I wanted to get to know Michael. I felt like he was the start to gaining those connections to other students. I could start friendships with his friends, and their friends, and so on until I finally had this one massive friend group. I decided that the next day, I would start getting to know Michael.

I rushed over to my locker only to find Michael leaning against it, holding it shut. He had already got my books and binders for me. I knew from the moment I woke up, that I had one goal for the day; have Michael introduce me to his friends.
“Hey Eli,” he said as he handed me my supplies.
“Hi.” I didn’t want to waste too much time today because I had a bigger plan in mind than just becoming friends with everyone in the school. “Who is your closest friend, Michael?” I asked.
“The one I have known the longest? Typically that is who is closest to you as a person. Anyone who has gained your trust over time.”
“Why?” He paused for a moment to think. “Ah, I see.”
“You want to get to know them.”
“That’s correct.”
“See Eli, I did remember what you wanted. You told me you wanted to be popular and I told you to make some connections to others in our school.”
“You know Eli, I feel like you and I are already close friends and I have only known you for a day.” I had already gained Michael’s trust. I would now start to do the same to the others. “We have a few minutes after class that I can introduce you to my friend group.”
“That sounds great. I’ll see you then.” Michael went off to his classes for a bit while I daydreamed of the possibilities of how great school would be if I were ‘popular.’

Class finally ended. I met up with Michael in the hallway once more. I was waiting for him to fulfill his promise. I didn’t notice the taller boy standing behind him. I was about to introduce myself just as Michael cut me off to do it for me.
“Eli, this is Peter.”
“Hi Peter.” I shook his hand. His handshake was almost the same as Michael’s.
“Hey. I heard you were Eli.”
“Yep. That’s correct.” I spent a few minutes making small talk with Peter. I was just trying to get to know him. The same way I wanted to get to know everyone.

Days went by. Everyday, Michael would meet me at my locker in the morning. Everyday, I would talk with him about school. I wanted to know more about the lessons he took since I was only in a few of his classes. Everyday he would walk me through a lesser-known part of the school. Everyday, he introduced me to another person in our grade.

Weeks went by. I had began to build up an entire group of students that agreed to support and help me through school the same way they agreed to support Michael. I felt like a vice president to him. I was still making myself known to the grade. I knew that if I did, I would be greatly benefitted in the future.

Months went by. I was doing well in my classes. Every day, I said hello to Harper, Elizabeth, Alexander… All of the people I had met over the first few months of the school year. Almost everyone knew the name Eli. Some even called me Micheal’s vice president.

The school year was almost over. I knew it was almost time for me to follow through with my plan. I had built up a massive friend group. Michael had been guiding me all year long. I would take the summer to think about next school year.

After saying goodbye to all of my friends and classmates on the last day of school, I got on the bus. Looking through the yearbook, I realized how many autographs I had. After walking around with Michael all day, I had begun to lose track of everyone I talked to. I got autographs from almost everyone in the grade and all of my now massive friend group. All I knew was that I was almost ready to put my support to good use. I achieved my goal and got what I needed to prepare for my second year of high school.

“Thank you all for agreeing to follow my leadership. It is a great honor that I am able to lead you all. I will take this year to pay you back for the support you gave me in the past. I will make sure that all of you get what you deserve for supporting me through my first year up until now.” Of course Michael and I will remain friends. He will continue to support me, and I, as promised, will support him and all of our classmates. However, this year, it will be me who guides the new students through the school. It will be me who introduces them to my friends.

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