Photo by Kaitlyn Stratman
The Dunn family packed cardboard boxes stuffed with their belongings in the back of their Acura MDX then drove down the road as their home grew smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror. They headed north on the highway, away from Little Rock, Ark., her home for the past year, and towards Kansas City, her home for all the years before that. She was finally returning to the place she loved and had grown up in.
“The day could not come soon enough,” Dunn said. “I remember driving down the street [in Arkansas] and looking back at our house like, ‘bye! see you never!’ I was so excited to go home permanently.”
It was far from a sorrowful, tear-jerking moment. In August of Dunn’s sophomore year, her parents broke the news to her that the family would be moving out to Little Rock, Arkansas due to better job opportunities. But now, as a senior, she’d be returning to East and everything she loved about it: Friday night football games, roaring student sections and all of the school spirit that surrounded East. Dunn’s wish of eventually moving back to Kansas City from Arkansas was finally coming true.
However, the process of returning to Kansas City was not a simple one. Dunn realized all of the things that Little Rock was missing, so in February, she had the sudden urge to address issues she was having to her parents. She got onto her laptop and began to type out a four page essay, convincing her parents to let the family move back to their true home in Kansas City. Dunn went back and forth for months deciding when the perfect time would be to present it, but finally settled on a night in July when her parents were out to dinner. She printed off two copies, laid them neatly on the kitchen table and waited at the top of her staircase, face wet with tears, for her parents to read them.
Dunn received a simple ‘maybe’ which gave her a sliver of hope to hang onto, that possibility that she could, one day, come back to Kansas City. That hope was fulfilled on a Sunday afternoon in July, when Dunn wasn’t expecting to receive the news she had been waiting to hear.
“I think your prayers have worked,” Dunn’s mother said. “Honey we’re moving back to Kansas City.”
“I didn’t stop smiling for weeks,” Dunn said. “I had nothing to be grumpy about. I was so excited.”
Once the family completed the six and a half hour drive back to Kansas City, Dunn sent a text to her East friends, seniors Josie Clough and Kyle Haverty saying, “Guess who’s officially back!” A few days later, Dunn finally got to see them again, receiving warm embraces and catching up on the past year without each other.
“I was really excited to have her back,” Clough said. “It was fun to have her back like old times.”
Returning to Kansas City, Dunn gained back that feeling of being home and having the familiarity of living in a town where she could walk into Starbucks and immediately recognize someone there. She missed knowing her way around town, which gas station had the lowest prices and where the best place to grab a sandwich was.
Another factor in moving back was that Dunn’s school in Arkansas, Episcopal Collegiate School, didn’t have that “classic high school experience” that comes with going to a larger school. Her new school was a small, 3A private academy, which was miniscule compared to the 1,600 students that attend East.
“I just missed seeing someone new in the hallway every day,” Dunn said. “It’s a cool experience. Going to a small 3A school it’s like, alright, our drumline is 5th graders on bongos. I just really missed that feeling of being in a big high school and the complete experience that you see on TV and in movies.”
At Episcopal Collegiate School, those aspects were missing. The cross country team consisted of six students, and for track, only five. If Dunn had wanted to get serious about running, Episcopal couldn’t give her that. If she wanted to be more involved in school, she couldn’t do that either, because it was run more by teachers than students.
Coming back to East, Dunn immediately jumped back into those activities. Currently, she’s participating in cross country, student council and pep club.
“When I walked into school the first day I honestly felt like I had never left,” Dunn said. “Arkansas was so different so it was a grand thing to be able to come back to my roots.”
Click here to Grace Chisholm’s interactive about Hope Dunn’s return to Kansas City