Arriving at Broad Ripple Magnet School on the first day did not feel as odd as it did for my peers. I had just been in high school a few months previous at this point in time, so it almost felt as if I had never left high school after all. However, unlike the casual feeling I had felt as I entered my school, I had a bubble of nervousness in my throat as I tried to navigate my way around the halls of Broad Ripple.

After we set up the room and had two aluminum containers filled with sandwiches, I looked around the room at my peers. I realized I was not the only one nervous. Everyone was antsy, shifting their weight from foot to foot and keeping in a herd off to the side. I stood a little away from that group, trying to gather myself before the students swarmed in.

I didn’t realize how well the word “swarmed” would fit their entrance. The only sign that the room would suddenly be crammed with laughing, yelling bodies was a loud thrum that then rose into an incomprehensible cluster of sounds before the first wave of students poured through the door. Most of the students seemed almost to ignore the Butler mentors standing off to the side as they chose a seat at the tables on the left side of the room, creating a clear divide between Butler students and Broad Ripple ones.

It felt like the first day of school after I had moved to a new school in the fifth grade. I went around to every student, said hi and introduced myself, then giving the mic over to them so they could tell me their names and a little about themselves. I felt overwhelmed by all the names and faces, but after we all sat down with a few students apiece, I became very comfortable.

I didn’t take to it like it was the easiest thing in the world for sure, but there was something very nice about listening to these high schoolers talk about their day, their passions, their dreams, who they hate, who they like more than a friend, and their frustrations. I quickly realized that this program wasn’t just intended to get students to write, but to talk. This program is interested in free expression, through either the written word or spoken, but spoken word is often the most helpful.

Over the past two months, I’ve found myself gradually becoming more at home with the students. Now, I get excited every Tuesday and Thursday because I am ready to see the students that I regularly hang out with. I have watched these students warm up to the Butler mentors and there is so much happiness when a Butler student sees their regular student or vice versa. I never thought I would love this program so much but honestly, my experiences at Broad Ripple have made my first semester at Butler so enjoyable.

Ali Hanson is a first-year English major.