When Vinodh Narayanan first moved to America in 1965, he was struck by how many females there were in his school.
Narayanan had lived in India for most of his life. When he was 14, his family was uprooted and moved to America. His father had been there for a while, and because he had liked his job there, Narayanan and the rest of his family decided to join him there.
Narayanan was extremely excited to go to America. ‘I was 14 and a half years old, and we were all excited about going to America. Excited to see the huge buildings, the large cars and everything that seemed plentiful’ he says.
Narayanan first moved to Kansas. He spent a year in highschool over there as a sophomore, before moving to Clayton, Missouri for his junior and senior years. While he was the only brown person in these schools, his schoolmates were surprisingly welcoming. ‘My peers were eager to learn what my life had been in India and of my trip to the US. They were also eager to help me understand things like football, and their culture.’
Everyone was welcoming and helped me fit in.
— Vinodh Narayanan
And it wasn’t just his classmates that were eager to help him fit in, his teachers were also a huge help. ‘My American History teacher at Clayton High, Mr. Adzick, went to extra trouble to help me learn things that I had never been exposed to. This was probably one of the hardest subjects for me to learn.’ Narayanan tells me.
Narayanan quickly made friends with other students through joining clubs and doing other activities. ‘I played tennis team at Clayton High, I guess I socialized mainly with the sports guys and the nerds. I was a member of probably the first group that got to learn how to program a computer.. I was heavily into physics, chemistry and engineering drawing.’ He also made friends with other foreign students who lived in Clayton, one who was Indian like him, and and a couple other from Iran.
However, by far the hardest adjustment for Narayanan was the introduction of girls. In India, Narayanan had gone to an all-boys school, and going to a co-ed school was a huge culture shock for him. ‘Coming here and having to do things with girls-like learning square dancing in gym class in Kansas, was a little scary’ Narayanan says, chuckling, ‘but I did get used to it.’
Fast forward to now, more than 50 years after Narayanan went to school. Narayanan now works at as a neurologist in Arizona, and part of the reason he got there was Clayton. Narayanan proved that Clayton had been an inclusive place for all people while he was there, and now, in the present, we must keep it that way.