Kimberlee “Kim” Weiher is a graduate of Nazareth Academy, where she was involved in volleyball, basketball, dancing, yearbook, and Eucharistic Ministry. Kim is currently in DeKalb Community Dance School and has interests in reading, writing, and dancing. Kim’s major is nursing; she would like to work in trauma and eventually anesthesiology. Writing “Cultural Diversity: ‘City vs. Suburb’” allowed Kim to reflect on both the good and bad times in high school, which contributed to making her who she is today.
I love my hometown, sweet home Chicago! The forever noisy “Windy City,” known for the best hotdogs in the world! I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois and lived in the same house my entire life with my parents, my older sister, and my older brother. I would not necessarily call our house small, and we all had our own rooms from the beginning, but it is definitely not a mansion either. I had all the friends and family I could ask for, along with all the love in the world. I was always happy, which is all that mattered, right? I never had a problem with my hometown or my house—that is, until I got to high school.
My high school was located in LaGrange Park, a suburb about twenty minutes away from my house. LaGrange is a very clean little town that can almost be described as a “Pleasantville.” There are always people walking around downtown LaGrange because it has lots of places to eat, along with all the best coffee shops and ice cream parlors known to humans. LaGrange Road (LaGrange’s main street) is usually decorated corresponding to the season at the time. The community contains many big, older looking houses, which still hold high in value. LaGrange also contains many known schools. Overall, LaGrange is the type of community I doubt anyone would have a problem sending their child to high school in, and I attended Nazareth Academy Coed College Preparatory High School there.
As I entered the big glass doors on the first day of my freshman year, all I could think about was how amazing everything was going to be, how I was going to a promising school and going to make many promising friendships that would start off with sleepovers and shape into lifetime relationships. One of the first girls I talked to that morning asked me where I was from. I replied with a big smile across my face, “Chicago, right around Midway airport.” She instantly went from looking excited to having a nervous expression across her face. Then she asked, “So do you like, walk out your front door and see shootouts?” I was confused and somewhat angry that she would even ask that about the beloved place I call home. Personally, I have never seen a shootout except on TV, and I do not know one single person who has been murdered. I answered, jokingly, “Sometimes,” to see if she would believe me because I did not truly think she was serious. From that day on, I was known as “the girl who is a gang banger.” That was not the type of nickname I wanted to start off with. Ever since that first day of high school, I was judged by where I was from, not by my personality or from the knowledge I had. Everyone from Chicago, or the general area, became known as the “Midway kids.” The stereotype gave me a background of being “tough” and “troublesome.” However, the truth is that I was from Chicago, not Midway; I was tough on the court only when I played basketball, and the only trouble I ever got into at Nazareth was a detention for reading a book in class instead of listening to a lecture. The kids from Nazareth had me all wrong.
There were about ten kids who attended Nazareth that actually lived in my area or a few blocks away. However, most of my classmates were from places such as LaGrange, Oak Brook, Hinsdale, and Downers Grove, which are all considered “rich suburban areas.” I went over to my friends’ houses all the time, and most of them lived in these suburbs. They had houses that seemed like mansions with a driveway gate and a doorman. My parents were always fine with me having friends over too, but my friends’ parents were unsure of the area I lived in. They did not want their children put at risk. My question to them was always, “At risk of what?” It never made sense to me. Unfortunately in my situation, the majority of the people I met at Nazareth had the misunderstanding that Chicago is a low community with gang bangers, gangsters, and shootings around every corner. The truth is Chicago is a huge city that would take one hour to drive through, from north to south. I come from a neighborhood called Garfield Ridge, where there are more and more homes going up in value every day. Even though Chicago has some poverty and problems, it is made up of many beautiful and successful communities within itself.
It was not until near the end of sophomore year that I actually had some friends from Nazareth who were not from Chicago sleep over at my house. Unfortunately, that was only because by that time, they had their own driver’s licenses and did not have to get their parents’ permission or ask for a ride anymore. By the end of sophomore year and the beginning of junior year, basically everyone in my class had their driver’s licenses. It was not until then that I heard of some ridiculous rumor, “When driving home, those who turn right out of the front of Nazareth are rich and those who turn left out the front of school are poor.” As you could have probably guessed, I turned left out of Nazareth and because of that, I was known as poor. I was furious the first time I heard that one. What did anyone from Nazareth know about my family and our financial stability? My father was a Chicago fireman for thirty-two years and, at the time, had been a Chicago Fire Chief for six years, so we were required to live in the city. My mother was a successful beautician, who still owns her own business today. They raised me and my siblings, put a roof over our heads, sent us to good schools, and got us everything we ever asked for. I might not have been rich, but I was definitely not poor, and why would that matter anyway?
It was around that time that I started letting the stereotypes get to me. I became jealous of the big houses my friends bragged about. I also started fighting with my parents more often because I questioned if what they had given me was good enough. I became selfish and ashamed of my home-life at times. However, as I hung around my “rich suburban” friends more and more, I learned that it was easier to get into trouble there than it was at home, in the city. When parties got busted in the suburbs, everyone got caught because there was nowhere to run; the houses were too far apart, which left wide-open spaces. Some of my friends had so much money that they did not know what to do with it and instead of being smart, they hurt themselves. All the extra money their parents gave them went to buying drugs and/or alcohol. However, their parents did not even notice, or chose not to notice. My best friend, Hailey, had a mom who threw money at her, instead of being the mother that she needed to be. For example, instead of going home for dinner, Hailey would eat dinner by my house or simply eat out because she could. She always had the hottest clothes and the cutest shoes. On the outside, Hailey looked like she had the perfect life. Hailey never had a curfew, because her mom was not there to enforce it. But one day Hailey told me she was jealous that my mom cared enough to tell me: “No, you can not go out tonight.” Hailey and I were both asked to prom our freshman year. Hailey also told me she wished her mom would take her prom dress shopping instead of sending her with the visa yet again. That year, my mom helped Hailey and me find the perfect dress for prom. Even though my best friend always had money, she never had the supportive mom that I had. I seriously think I never would have made it through high school without the long, late night talks that my mother and I shared. Personally, I think I had it better.
Certain friendships, like the one Hailey and I shared, opened my eyes to see the wonderful life that my parents had given me. Over time I finally regained the confidence and sense of pride that came from deep down inside me. I finished junior and senior year happy and successful and held lots of friendships dear to my heart. Nazareth Academy is a great high school, academically. However, it will always be split between city and suburban teenagers. But it is up to each kid, himself or herself, to find the right path. They can either hold their head high or follow the pack and accept the stereotypes. It might have taken two years to realize it, but I have always had an awesome life that I can brag about. I realized I was happy, and that was all that truly mattered. My name is Kimmy, and my family members are my best friends. I am from Chicago, the city that I will forever love and always be proud of!