BR teen invades Britain,
conquers government

by Chante Dionne Warren

This article appeared in the Advocate (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) on 20 June 1998.

This item may be cited as Chante Dionne Warren, BR teen invades Britain, conquers government, Baton Rouge Advocate, June 20, 1998, at 8E.

Copyright © 1998, Capital City Press

Nikki Franks was worried about transferring from Baton Rouge Magnet High to a school on the outskirts of London.

She didn't know how students there would accept her, and she wasn't used to the English accents.

"It was kind of depressing, kind of sad," she said. "Leaving all my friends in Baton Rouge was real difficult."

Franks recalled her arrival during a telephone conversation earlier this month.

She also missed some of her favorite spicy foods and hot, sunny days, she said.

But Franks, 16, didn't have time to complain about her new predicament, instead she opened up, got to know students and quickly turned into a sort of "novelty to them," she said.

"I kind of stand out," she said. "To them I sound Southern and to me, they sound really English. Everytime I say y'all, they laugh, although they are trying to be nice."

And no one had ever heard of crawfish until Franks tuned them in about the popular Southern delicacy.

Students are even ranked in a different way. Instead of being a junior, Franks was classified as a sixth former - students who are near graduation.

Her younger sister, Yvette Franks, 15, is considered a fifth-year student, though in American schools she would be considered an incoming junior.

The two girls moved to England with their family in December because their father, M. R. Franks, a professor of law at Southern University, is on leave of absence teaching American law.

Before long, the unbelievable happened, Franks said.

In March, she was elected president of her new school, St. Mary's Church of England High School.

"I was surprised," Franks said.

She was nominated by her classmates and beat out five other candidates at the school of about a thousand students, she said.

"I have a different perspective, a fresh look and I can incorporate a lot of ideas," she told students at her speech. "I'm responsible and I have a different approach because I had a different background coming from the United States."

"Since I've become president, I've given up my lunch breaks to meet with the committee (student officers)," she said.

At those meetings, she has suggested pushing a plan to spruce up the common room, a popular studying room for students.

In addition, Franks and her committee offer counseling sessions for students ages 11 to 16.

She said students often face typical problems like "I don't like a teacher, too much homework, can't get along with friends, family problems and bully problems."

At lunch we counsel students and if somebody wants to see somebody, we'll be there in the room," she said.

Color photos of: (1) Nikki Franks standing in front of the Houses of Parliament in London (provided by M. R. Franks), and (2) Yvette Franks.

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