8th grade has been better. A lot better. Things are still up in the air when it comes to actually getting to go home, but at least school feels more doable than it used to be. You started this year with the same people you finished 7th grade with. It’s your second year in this school and you have a group of friends now, and even better, a best friend.
I feel like I’ve known Melanie forever, but it’s only been a year. Finally, someone really understands what it’s like to be in my shoes.
Melanie’s been at her foster home for three years straight. She’s up for adoption, just waiting on a family who wants to adopt her. You laugh to yourself thinking of how you both tried to keep it a secret that you were in foster care. Then one day you both showed up to the same workshop at the foster care agency. Since then, you’ve been two peas in a pod.
I’ve only ever had a brother- Melanie is like the sister I never had!
As you walk down the hallway toward class, you smile as you pass Ms. Rivera’s office knowing you’ll stop by later to say hello. Ms. Rivera knows when to be tough but isn’t afraid to let you know she cares. Like when she waited with you after school when your ride was late. And when she called after you’d been home with the flu for three days, just to make sure that you were feeling better.
I hope there are teachers like Ms. Rivera in high school. I think it would be cool to be like her one day. I could talk to kids who might be in tough spot. Who knows, maybe I could help?
“Hey Alexis, let’s go!” Melanie shouts to you from down the hallway.
You hurry toward her, the two of you link arms and head out. You’re feeling a little nervous.
What if the mentors are weird? What if they don’t want anyone new to join? I feel like the other kids might not like me as much as they like Melanie.
As if she’s reading your mind, Melanie says, “You’re gonna love Junket, I promise. We get to go to all these different places, learn different stuff, and we always try amazing new foods. ALWAYS. You can definitely count on that!”
You arrive at the Junket office and pretty quickly feel welcomed. There are lots of smiles, a chill vibe, and plenty of delicious snacks.
Alright, maybe my caseworker was right, maybe this one is actually competent (I just learned that word from Ms. Rivera!). I think I’ll actually fit in here.
You go back, week after week. You’re learning photography, budgeting and marketing skills, email etiquette- tons of stuff. Your favorite part though is when you go on adventures with everyone on the weekends. Taking the train upstate to pick apples, trying Dim Sum after navigating through Chinatown, exploring The Cloisters and the Transit Museum and even going to one of the mentor’s apartments for a monthly dinner together. You don’t even mind helping with the dishes at these dinners.
Some days you arrive to Junket meetings in a bad mood, and that’s okay. Sometimes you’re really talkative, and that’s okay too. Slowly but surely, you’re fully yourself whenever you’re there. Despite whatever unknowns lie outside, you feel safe and secure with your fellow Junketeers.
I feel like I’m gonna be okay, no matter what comes next, because I know I have my Junket family behind me. And it makes me feel like I have #NOlimits.