By Jose Zacarias, 17, Orthopaedic Hospital Medical Magnet HS
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Jose says to embrace the nerd inside of you.

People think that nerds are awkward and have no friends. They think being nerdy isn’t cool. When my 13-year-old cousin comes to my room and sees me at my computer desk studying, he’ll say, “You’re such a nerd.” I don’t like how he says it as if it were bad. It’s not bad. I’m a nerd, and I love it! I love learning things I didn’t know before. I like going out but I like reading too. Plus, being a nerd has brought me a lot of friends.

I’ve always liked to learn. In third grade, there were some rowdy kids in my class who interrupted the teacher and yelled. When I was about to start fourth grade, I hoped that my next classroom would be filled with quiet kids who paid attention all the time. I still hope a class like that exists and that I find it in college.

When I got to middle school, subjects came easily to me and I didn’t have to study much, except for the occasional vocab quiz. My grades were As, except for a C in P.E. and a B in my second semester of algebra. To this day I hate that B.

When high school started and I made new friends, I found out that some of them had gotten straight As all their lives. How cool! How did they do that? I wondered what it would feel like to get straight As. I started watching my friends. If they were taking notes during a lesson, I would take notes. If they were asking questions, I would ask questions. After class, we would talk about what we didn’t understand. We started sitting together at lunch and talking about TV shows and the schools we had come from. From then on I didn’t just like being a nerd, I loved it. There were other people like me.

We joked around speaking in French

Last year, we had a minimum day at school, which meant we got out at 1 p.m. My fellow nerds and I didn’t want to go home so early, so we decided to go on an adventure. We headed off from our school, taking the buses for a few miles to explore downtown L.A. As we were walking, one of us suggested we should pretend to be foreign tourists. Most of us had taken at least a few years of French so we transformed into European tourists. I was the “French” one. I would talk to one friend in French and she’d translate to English for the “British” one. Our conversations mostly involved things such as “Where are we? Are we lost?” People eyed us weirdly every time we spoke to each other and we would laugh once they walked away. We have fun no matter what we do.

One of the perks of being a nerd, for me, is getting together with my friends to study. We like to get together after school or on weekends. We have this special place behind the Central Library. It’s between two tall buildings so it’s shady. There are tables and it’s always quiet, which makes it perfect. We play games like Jeopardy using the material we need to learn such as math or geology. We’ll make up silly categories such as “Sure,” “I knew that,” “Oh!  . . . Right” and “WTH!” and we’ll yell out stuff like “I’ll have WTH for $300!”

Last year, my trig teacher, Mr. Tran, told us in the first week of school, “Nerd is the new gangsta!” Everyone cracked up. He told us that he was a nerd in school too and after that, everyone in my class started calling each other nerds as a compliment. It was so awesome because the way it was said was intended to make each other feel good. Before, when people would call us nerds, we would reply “So?” But now, we yell out “And proud!”

Taking school seriously will help my future

I like doing well in school because I’ve seen how not taking school seriously can have consequences. My older siblings don’t have college degrees and struggle to support themselves. I don’t want to go through the same things they have. This is another reason why I like being a nerd. I know my education will benefit me and make my parents proud because I’ll be able to get into a good college, have a career and support a family.

During the summer, I tried learning Russian on my own. I thought it would be fun to be able to speak a different language. Learning a new alphabet and then trying to piece letters together to form words was hard. After getting the hang of the alphabet, I was giddy because I was reading a word with weird symbols, which made me proud. I imagined running into a person who speaks Russian in college and if I learn enough, I’ll have something to share with that person. I took my Russian book to L.A. Youth and started reading it while I waited for the meeting to start. My book was propped open and another staff member saw it. “Is that for your class?” she asked me. “No. I’m just doing it for fun.” She looked puzzled and gave me a long “OK.” I laughed and explained that it was just something fun to do for the summer.

Some people question what I think “fun” is because it’s usually something that involves learning. But I don’t care. I’m a nerd—it’s who I am.