March 27, 2018

So...Who Were You In High School?

Before marriage + kids + high school ended...Ms. Dionna Williams! Our fellow 98 now goes by Mrs. Roberts to her students
Before marriage + kids + high school ended...Ms. Dionna Williams! Our fellow 98 now goes by Mrs. Roberts to her students thanks to her hubby!

High school. Those four years of life that many of us spent trying to “figure it all out”.  It was that time when we were finding our independence a bit. Making friends, losing friends, and becoming involved in things bigger than ourselves.  We were laughing, learning and living the life that we knew, undeniably shaped by our times spent with one another in the halls and classrooms of one of the greatest educational institutions the city of Detroit has ever known--Martin Luther King Jr., Senior High School located at 3200 East Lafayette St!


The life that each Crusader grew to know was dependent on a few variables. Let’s begin with the fact that our high school was so diverse in the classes and opportunities offered to the scholars who attended there. Martin Luther King, Jr. Senior High School offered three programs: Mathematics, Science and Technology (MSAT), Center for International Studies and Commerce (CISC) and College Preparatory Liberal Arts (CPLA). (ranked in no particular order--I promise.) Depending on your program of study, your educational experience, as far as core classes and curricular content, were wildly different. These variables are important, yet not the only ones to consider. There are additional factors. Ones that were more unspoken, yet obvious to anyone who’s been a part of high school life, has watched any episodes of Saved By The Bell or seen the movie The Breakfast Club. You see in high school, these variables can arguably be the most influential in the life of a high school student who’s trying to “figure it out”. I’m speaking of the social group variable.  So at 3200 East Lafayette St., you had the obvious groupings: The Intellectuals, The Popular/Cool Kids, The Creative Theatrical Musical Artistics, The Athletes, and The Others. Continue reading and I will explain how this all played out in my teenage mind!


Being that King was a college preparatory school, one could argue that all of us had a taste of being an Intellectual. But, some of us were more “nerdy” than most. For example, if your notebooks were full of class notes, study guides, your backpack contained your graphing calculator, along with highlighters, pens, and mechanical pencils; this was most likely your group.  If your hand was constantly raised proudly when the teacher posed a question and legit had the answer, then this was you. Even more so you if you ever challenged the teacher’s content, debated your understanding of said content with your friends as you changed classes that then spilled over into lunchtime conversation...this was definitely you! Oh, and if you were ever a part of the academic games team, The Intellectuals may have been your group.


The Popular/Cool Kids was the group that was composed mostly of extroverts. The funny personalities. The people who knew all the “tea” long before Kermit’s famous sipping was a thing, wore the sweetest gear, and showed up en masse to sporting and social events. The Popular/Cool Kids were the cousins that we  all wait for at family gatherings, because when they showed up, so did the non-stop shenanigans!


The Creative Theatrical Musical Artistics were those who were a part of The Choir, Madrigals, Marching Band, Dance Workshop, or Drama. Did we have visual art classes? I honestly don’t remember seeing an art studio ever. Where were they hiding the paints, and pencils, pastels and canvases? Anyway, these individuals were confident, poised, and had those superstar qualities. Were at home when in performance mode.


The Athletes were well... the athletes. These were the people who played basketball, football, baseball, golf, ran track, were cheerleaders, majorettes, flaggers or worked it out with a pair of pom poms. Being a teamplayer, showing endurance, skill, coordination and undeniable swag were some of their most memorable attributes.  They were like the superheroes of our class in a sense. Just jerseys and uniforms though. No capes required.


Finally, we have The Others. Who are The Others  you ask? Well, one of my best friends summed up “The Others” as “those cool people who were cool with almost any and everybody but were kind of quiet for the most part and sometimes were a little weird”. The Others were often sprinkled about in the aforementioned groups, but again, didn’t make alot of noise and were more introverted, so you probably don’t remember that they were there.


I was definitely an Other as were most of my closest friends from high school.


Yet...I was also an intellectual who sat in the back of the class whenever allowed, turned in my assignments, and that was it. I went to two homecoming dances, three military balls, a handful of birthday parties, but no sporting events though. So, semi-social? Meh-maybe a little.  I was a dancer, but those shiny unitards were not my friend, so I didn’t stay long although I loved it. Athlete? For a hot minute I played golf and was a part of the girls golf team with Coach Williams. I was also in DECA (not by choice, required class) and traveled to Denver, Colorado and Anaheim, California for competitions. I was a part of so many great opportunities, but was uncomfortably too shy and anxious to do any of these things well or enjoy myself while doing them. I liked being around people, but felt out of place in the larger population because I didn’t feel comfortable or cool enough in my own skin to just be myself and be present in the moment. Now, don’t get me wrong, my personal little friend pocket was AMAZINGLY awesome and I think I was pretty cool in their opinions. With other Others, I was comfortable being as quiet or as loud as I wanted at any given moment. We have high school memories for days, however, I feel like I missed out on some things. Anxiety would be too high for social acceptance and I would retreat. I’d either go to the event and find the quietest spot that I could find or not go and wonder about all the fun that I would be missing.  Sounds crazy? It’s not though. I promise you.


After high school, the same feelings of awkward anxiety and social shyness played out in college and into the first few years in my career. I realized that I had to get over wondering “what if?” and just go to the party so to speak. By this time, I was becoming comfortable with being Other.  


I had to become more aware of how I perceived myself so that those beliefs would whisper louder than the voices of “you don’t really fit anywhere”.


In life, there are always memories to be made, even if they’re made in small comfortable circles or quiet corners. Your group, your tribe, your people need your energy in their space just as much as you need theirs. I must be completely honest and tell you that although I’ve learned to accept and deal with all the quirks of my introverted extroversion, I had a hard time deciding if I was going to attend our 20th reunion. Who would I talk to? What would I talk about? Who knew who I really was the first time, let alone this time? Yikes! I’m feeling like I need to take a time-out to breathe after just writing that. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s grappled with the “Do I go to the reunion or not?” question. If your hesitancy is rooted in the belief that this event is more for the groups of people who would most likely fit in a group other than “Other”, I would like to encourage you to reconsider. This moment of #ThisIsUs98  will only happen once. No mulligans, encores, or second chances. There are memories to be made with your tribe. There are pictures to be taken...of course under the proper hashtags!. Laughs to be had and times to be remembered. We all fit into that equation wonderfully well: The Intellectuals-The Popular/Cool Kids-The Creative Artistics-The Athletes-The Others. #ThisIsUs98


Hope to see you August 10-12th during our 20 year reunion “This Is Us...20 Years Later” back home in the D!

About The Author:
Dionna (Williams) Roberts currently lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband Jerome and 3 adorable children. She works in the Kalamazoo Public Schools as a Literacy Instructional Coach for K-5 teachers and is also an Adjunct Professor (Literacy Studies Dept) to aspiring teachers at Western Michigan University! You can find her on Facebook at Dionna Roberts!



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Eboni on March 27, 2018 11:22 AM
Dee, Thank you for putting a voice to the thoughts and feelings of The Others. Your words are magnificently powerful and speak to the experiences that some of us felt, encountered and even inflicted upon ourselves. Great read and awesome work!
Dionna on March 27, 2018 2:25 PM
Eb, thank you. I know for sure that I inflicted much negativity upon myself. I was stuck in fear (of what tho?) and feel like I missed out on some good high school stuff! I have many fantastic memories too though. Some embarrassing ones that are now comical and a group of friends who have stood the test of time. High school is like gumbo. A little bit of everything. 
Thee Lioness on April 9, 2018 12:13 PM
I would show up just for photo opps; so I can photo bomb with Alvin ??? Group photos should be done by the listing, as well as a class pic I can say that I was multidimensional when it came to who I hung with/spoke to I was on the basketball team (how many of y'all recall that???) yet outside of practice, scrimages, PAL games & the locker room, I never hung out with my teammates I was recruited to play for our school while I was in middle school...I was also a 'brain' & scored high enough on that test to get in to either King, Cass or Renaisance--I chose to be a Crusader ????? best academic environment + the division league basketball champions--I'm sold! By the end of 10th grade I began feeling how less important winning competitions & trying to maintain that 3.9 gpa (held strong until 11th grade shenaniganz in Mrs. Don'tKnows math class )there was no fun in this & it got waayy too serious...I just wanted to do my thing & not live up to family expectations...for some reason shsn you are from da 'hood & you show smarts/potential other than the streets provide there is this stigma that you are 'the one who is going to live out the family dreams' 'make something of yourself' 'the first in family to graduate high school, so you better go to college'...oh the pressure Hanging more with the "others" come the remaining 2 years was a breathe of fresh air ?? it helped me branch out...considering I was a westsider catching buses to the eastside to go to school with students from different areas of Detroit was refreshing...some of the folks I went to middle school with tested in as well & we ended up being split up due to what programs we got in, so the only time I saw any of them outside of lunch was thru Japanese class, because it was on the MSAT side of the building...yet it was good I met so many others or high school may have been more unbearable for me...I make friends easily so BEing multidimensional grouping wise I got on well with all that were cool by me...I preferred not to be in the limelight thru sports or academia; which I am constantly hearing is an oddity for my being a [lady] leo ?????? I feel I missed out on happenings because I was over what was considered socially acceptable according to family & friends & craved exposure to what was different/outside my comfort zone--which all began with the choice to no longer go to my neighborhood schools after middle school...King dayz showed me that there are so many brilliant individuals to meet from all areas & I should not limit my experience to my immediate surroundings...comfort zones are not always the safest or best course of action--it is indeed non-action to remain in your comfort zone

Muminah Battle on March 27, 2018 1:43 PM
My sentiments exactly. I was an Other I guess lol I may have been something beneath an other if that’s possible 
Dionna on March 27, 2018 2:15 PM
Mo, STOP! LOL. Other is not synonymous with low on the totem pole. It just means the ambiguous group. With your close group of people, I'm sure you were cooler than cool. Hope to get to hug you soon!
Tamara Flake on March 27, 2018 4:14 PM
Great way to define it as ambiguous group but not low or high for that matter!

Aaron Hardy-Smith on March 27, 2018 2:51 PM
Beautifully written expressions D! 

Russell Mathis on March 27, 2018 3:53 PM
Duuuude you rocked that... What an ensightfully deep yet lightly comedic piece. I appreciate you sharing and the others were dope... Not really sure which group I was in but I enjoyed getting to know people from each one!
Dionna on March 28, 2018 8:46 PM
I totally agree with you, Russ. There were cool people all around King. 

Tamara Flake on March 27, 2018 4:26 PM
This is so very well written. My way of overcoming the decision to go to the 20th or not was to get involved. This has allowed me to have almost daily conversations with some of you that I've never spoken with and communicate with others who I wish I had gotten to know better back then but my own insecurities stopped me from doing so. I really look forward to seeing all of you and learning where life's journey has landed you 20 years later. We, Crusaders class of 1998 had something really special that continues to shine bright to this day. Looking back I see myself in a couple of these groups for sure. Looking forward I'm excited about the opportunity this reunion will bring for me to connect and reconnect with all of you.
Tamra on March 28, 2018 8:49 PM
I totally can relate to what you're saying. In reading the comments, laughs, and banter on the Facebook reunion page (especiall of TBT), I often think about all the people I missed out on! The stories about the teachers had me in tears laughing. Looking forward to more memories being shared.

Jamishia Smith on March 29, 2018 12:44 AM
Dionna-- Thanks for taking time to write this much needed reflection-- for yourself and the rest of us in the class:-). Like we discussed-- I think anyone who was based on the 2nd floor in King was a "nerd" by default LOL! We all were there for our academic talent. I also think to everyone-- each of us could be considered an "other". I think I was connected to all of the groups in passing but definitely had a core of friends that were primarily based in MSAT and CISC. 

I always enjoyed talking to you throughout high school and when we ran into each other during WMU years. I think sometimes just interest and/or maybe a class seating charts kept many of us apart-- and just being young and unaware.

I am glad FB and opportunities over the years have allowed for some of us to connect and get to know each other beyond 1994-98. No one 98 shines brighter than any other! 

ReNisha Simpkins on April 10, 2018 12:45 AM
Awwwwwwe! this was an awesome read Dee. I really enjoyed you addressing serious matters in a light hearted way..... I'm excited to see you all! success be unto you all! co98..Proud of you all

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