Daisy Rodriguez was so excited. Today was her birthday and she was now a teenager. That’s what her friends said. Thirteen, the teen part of the word was what made it official. She was the first of her friends to reach that magic mark and they were all excited about it.
Of course, her mother was throwing a party. It wasn’t a Hispanic mark, it was more American. In two years she’d reach her quinceanera, that was the big event but in the meantime, this was a major milestone in her life.
Consuela, her best friend, arrived early. Her mother was going to help with the party. No self-respecting Hispanic woman put on a simple party. There were going to be tamales, sopes, empanadas and of course, a birthday cake decorated in lilac, Daisy’s favorite color. “Oh, look at the cake!” Consuela pulled out her phone and took a picture. “Won’t the rest of the class be jealous.”
Daisy didn’t really want the rest of the class to be jealous. Her mother had limited the party to five of Daisy’s friends. “I hope not. That would be mean.”
Consuela sniffed. “I don’t care. Those gringa’s in the class think they’re so much better. My brother says everything changes in high school. In grade school we all hang together. But he said in high school everyone breaks up and just hangs with their own.”
“That seems sad.” Daisy liked the white girls. They were different with their blond hair and blue eyes and attitudes. They seemed freer than the Hispanic girls.
“Maybe so.” Consuela tucked her phone back in her pocket just as the doorbell rang. “That’s them!”
Daisy and her friend ran to the door. As soon as it was opened the squeals of greetings commenced.
At school the next week Daisy made an effort to notice how the different kids acted with each other. It was the eighth grade so there weren’t any real labs but the history teacher and the science teacher did sometimes break the room into groups of four. If allowed to pick their own groups, most of the time the whites stayed with the whites and the Hispanics and blacks with their own people. The boys mixed more than the girls. Daisy began to make an effort to team with the others. She asked Tabitha, who was black, and Amanda, who was white to join her and Consuela when the History teacher had them break into groups to study the government of their city. She had to work at it. Both Tabitha and Amanda were reluctant but Daisy was known to be very smart and they wanted a good grade so they eventually said yes.
Daisy was pleased. The four girls had always gotten along and they received an “A” on their report. So it went the rest of the year. At the graduation ceremony, there were hugs and tears all around.
In the fall, Daisy attended the high school orientation with some worry. Would she be able to continue to integrate her friends?
“No, sorry.” Tabitha shook her head when Daisy asked if she wanted to go to the library together. They were in the same Social Studies class. Tabitha glanced over her shoulder at a group of black girls she’d been walking with. Their hands were on their hips and eyes were rolling. Tabitha gave Daisy a little shrug. “I’m studying with them.”
“Maybe next time.” Daisy shifted her books to her left arm. “We were pretty awesome together last year.”
Tabitha glanced at the other friends again. “Yeah, well. Later.” She turned and rejoined the girls.
Daisy sighed. She hated to think Consuela and her brother were right. All around the quad she could see that the kids had separated by culture; black, white, Hispanic and even the Asian kids were apart.
Consuela ran up. “Hey.”
“Hey. We have to do something.” Daisy’s fingers were tapping on her books.
“About the separation.” Daisy swept her arm around pointing out the quad. “We’ve already separated.”
“I told you.”
“They’re taking nominations for class president. Go to the office and nominate me.”
Consuela’s eyes bugged. “No Hispanic has ever been elected to class president.”
“That’s about to change.”
Daisy ran on a platform of integration and cultural diversity. As the ninth grade hadn’t been completely indoctrinated yet, Daisy won in a close race with a white boy, Judah Shine. He became her vice president and they became best friends. They made sure every class seating was random. Every team, academic or athletic was integrated.
By the end of the year, it seemed normal to the ninth graders to be integrated. The next year, Daisy won class president again, with Judah her VP once more. They worked to keep the new ninth graders integrated. The Seniors and Juniors, however, resisted. There was harassment and name calling. Daisy and Judah implemented bullying awareness classes.
And so it went. In their senior year, Daisy was elected Student body president. Judah became the Senior Class president. They now had every class in school integrated. Other schools began using their methods. The school won national awards for their integration efforts. Daisy and Judah received acceptance letters from the best colleges in the country.
At graduation, Consuela hugged Daisy. “Thank you.”
“For insisting that we not break up into splinter groups. How dull that would have been.” She kissed Daisy on the cheek.
“You’re welcome. It just seemed so limiting. This is better.”
The girls joined arms to find their parents. “Yes it is.”
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