The automatic updates on donorschoose may fall on deaf ears most of the time, but every once in a while, you'll get a surprise donor from someone in your past. Today was one of those days. The blast from the past was Mr. Thomas Ahn, my Korean friend from elementary school (4th grade I believe).
Thomas was a very ambitious student, even in elementary school. This was the 4th grader that told me, "You know Andy, it's never too early to be thinking about college!" as we were walking home from school one day. His drive for academic success, involvement in extracurricular activities, and assertiveness made many of his peers give him grief he didn’t deserve. He was strong and never showed that it got to him.
Even I gave him grief about Thomas being Thomas. Yet, we were still friends. One of my fondest memories was his sister taking us to watch the R rated movie, Urban Legends. Sister Ahn paid for everything and we would enjoy the R rated movie with snacks and drinks.
When we graduated from elementary school, we attended the same intermediate school but we were placed in different classes. He was in the "SP" class for the higher functioning students. I was in the regular class. At some point, they decided to move me up to that class in 8th grade where I would be reunited with some of my old elementary school chums.
I was placed in the prestigious 8-12 class (screw 8-13, we were better!) in the middle of the year after being in a class full of idiots in 8-6. It was frightening coming into a class as a new student in the middle of the year. I remember walking into Mrs. Siroka's math class the first day of the transition. I sat next to Thomas and Balaji. They were the exact opposite. Thomas being tall and yellow, while Balaji was on the other side of the spectrum, short and brown.
Just my luck, the first day in a new class and there was a math test. Mrs. Siroka gave me the exam to take. I sat and did the best I could. When we received the exams back the next day, I earned a 65%. Yay! I passed right? Wrong. The SP classes had higher grading standards. 75% was passing. Next to the red 65% was the comment "NEW STUDENT" circled in red. Under the circumstances, my poor grade was excused because I was simply a "NEW STUDENT."
Thomas and Balaji would get a good laugh about it. I did too. The three of us would push each other to do better than one another throughout the year. Whoever had the lowest grade in any future exam was dubbed, the now degrading title, "NEW STUDENT." The title would bounce back and forth between the three of us. Even if the lowest grade was a 97%, that person would still be shamed as the "NEW STUDENT." Thomas would rarely get that title, but the few times he did, he was furious.
After junior high school, Balaji and I attended Francis Lewis high school and Thomas was off to do great things at Townsend Harris. We wouldn't see each other much afterwards. The only time we would encounter each other was on the bus going to school. We would lose touch afterwards. It's something that happens in life. We would become Facebook friends but nothing else beyond that.
Fast forward to today. I found an old scanned picture of our ninth grade class picture back in 2001. I decided to post the picture on Facebook and tagged one to two people, knowing it would find its way around to the others in it, and they'd tag themselves. It would eventually reach an old friend, Thomas. For me, the picture brought back nostalgic feelings. It brought me back to a simpler time that I cherished. It sparked a chat with another friend, Vimal. I told him that if there were ever a time machine, this one be the only time I'd travel back to.