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A GIFT WITHIN REACH: Given college scholarships at age 4, the 20 former Krolik Elementary students had an opportunity, but many obstacles to face alon

Publication Date: 2004-04-21

This is a remarkable news story, containing details and nuance that one seldom sees.

Detroit Free Press
April 21, 2004


They're a snapshot of our community: Twenty smiling preschoolers who have morphed into high school students.

They're on the brink of adulthood; on the cusp of their futures.

Some consider them the unlucky ones: They came from poor neighborhoods, a struggling school district, and in a few cases, from unstable families.

At the same time, they are the lucky ones.

In 1990, Free Press editors decided to use the proceeds from the sale of books and posters commemorating the Pistons' second straight NBA championship to purchase scholarships for a class of preschoolers at Krolik Elementary School in Detroit.

"I remember we got around this table to take a picture," recalled Mister Butler, now 17 and a senior at Southeastern High. "I didn't know what we were doing. I just knew we had to smile."

That day could have been a sign of better things to come for the students at Krolik, an east-side school that today is an alternative high school.

But for most, it wasn't.

The Free Press purchased a Michigan Education Trust contract for $4,600 in each student's name. The contract guarantees two years of tuition and fees at a Michigan public university, no matter the present-day cost. The contract also can pay for out-of-state tuition at the average cost of a Michigan public university.

If the student cannot use the money within nine years of graduation, he or she can transfer the money to a sibling or return it to the Free Press, which will select another Detroit student.

"We wanted to find a class where there was a lot of need," said Free Press Deputy Managing Editor Dave Robinson, who was the sports editor in 1990.

The Krolik class was chosen because of its extensive parental involvement, strong teacher commitment and stability.

Today, most of the students have little chance of immediately using the money.

Their stories are varied. Sad. Disappointing. Inspirational.

For seven months, two Free Press reporters searched for the students by knocking on doors, scouring computer databases and tracking down landlords. Most of the families had moved from the Mack and Bewick area.

The scholarships

Of the 20 students, four have dropped out of high school, including one who left school because of pregnancy. One student, Ericka Lyles, dropped out of school in 2001. She could not be located.

Five students are a year or more behind in school. Three have lost relatives to violence.

Eight students are graduating this year and are academically eligible to attend college. Of those, only three have been accepted to college. The others say they are late in applying, are awaiting an improved ACT or SAT score, or are undecided on a school. They insist that they will go to college.

In 1990, when the scholarships were awarded, 46 percent of the Mack-Bewick area's 26,176 residents 25 and older did not have a high school diploma, according to the U.S. census.

"This group has beaten the odds," teacher Joyce Austin-Bohannon said of her former Krolik students. "Because many of their parents did not finish high school, they are breaking the generational curse."

But in fact, they haven't.

In 2002, the most recent statistics available, 67 percent of Detroit Public Schools students graduated on time and 10.6 percent dropped out, according to the Michigan Department of Education. Statewide, 89 percent graduated on time and the dropout rate is 3 percent.

Of the 20 former Krolik students, 50 percent will graduate on time and 20 percent have dropped out.

Though the rates fall below the district average, Austin-Bohannon celebrates the fact that all 20 students are alive. She has lost three former students to violence over the years.

"Even though the statistics were against them on paper, they still survived," said Austin-Bohannon.

In the end, a scholarship couldn't keep some youths from becoming victims of their depressed urban environment; victims of their family circumstances, or victims of themselves.

Mister Butler
Something to look forward to

Sandra Butler didn't have her high school diploma when her son, Mister, attended Krolik.

But she prayed that her six children would graduate from high school.

So when Mister, her youngest, was given the Free Press tuition award, it was a godsend.

"With me having six kids," she said, "I wondered how they would all go to college. It was a big help knowing my youngest would be able to go to college. I kept putting it in his head, 'You got a scholarship.' "

Mister's award turned out to not only be a blessing for him, but also encouragement for his mother.

"My kids pushed me," she said. "They said, 'You pushed us. Now, it's your turn.' We made a pact. I encourage them and they encourage me."

In 1997, Sandra Butler received her high school diplomafrom Trombley Adult Day High School -- with honors. Today, she is married and a student at Wayne County Community College.

"It was hard at first," said Butler, who had her first child at 14. "But I'm hanging in there with my 2.5."

Mister is hanging in there, too. He started the school year as a 2.0 student at Southeastern High. Recently, he made the honor roll with a 3.1. This spring, all of the Butler children will have graduated from high school.

Mister, who is 17, wants to attend Grand Valley State University and study automotive engineering. He loves fixing cars -- a skill he learned from his father, Willie Butler,who is a mechanic.

"I figured I had something to look forward to," he said, "so I was going to accomplish my goals."

Bernice Cochran
'I like to help people'

Bernice Cochran hides her learning disability from most of her schoolmates at Finney High. She's not embarrassed, she just doesn't like to talk about it. Bernice, 17, tested for high levels of lead in her blood when she was 4, to which her mother attributes the learning disability.

She was held back two grades and is now enrolled as a sophomore in special education classes at Finney. Her overall grade point average is a 2.8, and she says she would like to go to college. She dreams of becoming a pediatrician, but knows that becoming a cosmetologist is more realistic.

"I like to help people," she said.

Though a sophomore, this school year is Bernice's last at Finney. She plans to attend Highland Park Community College where she will get her GED and take up cosmetology.

Bernice's mother, Brigette Cochran, 36, calls her daughter a good kid who tries to remain upbeat despite her limitations, especially in math and reading.

Cochran, a single mother of five children, is facing her own challenge: home foreclosure. She lost her job in 2002 when the box-making company she worked for closed. She now works for Wal-Mart.

She said she hopes to rent a house in Highland Park or Roseville.

"My kids don't want to go," she said, "but they know we have to go. I tried to scrape the money together, but I couldn't."

Bernice's father, Hugh Owen Leggett, was a Detroit boxer. He was murdered when Bernice was 2. "Bernice doesn't really remember him, but she's always needed a father in her life," Cochran said.

Bernice spends her free time doing hair for friends. She makes $20-$25 per hairdo.

Cornell Massey
Trying for all A's

When Cornell Massey's mother would drop him off at school, he wouldn't stay. He would sneak home and go to sleep.

Eventually, his antics affected him academically and he ended up failing the fifth grade.

Then, Stephanie Jordan, his mother, stepped in.

"I got with him," Jordan said sternly. "He got his self together and started going back to school."

Cornell has since rebounded and is carrying a 2.5 grade point average at Finney High. He wants to attend college and with his senior year ahead of him, Cornell still could realize his dream.

"I'm trying to be an all-A student next year," said Cornell, who wants to become a surgeon. "When they put the senior list up, I don't want to be one of the last ones up there. I'm trying to get in the top 20."

Cornell works part-time at McDonald's. He then comes home and takes care of his four younger brothers. He also plays basketball for Finney and for his church, Solomon's Temple.

His mother appreciates his help -- and needs it. She works a 12-hour shift at Ford's Dearborn assembly plant.

"The wear and tear on your body is not worth any dollar amount," Jordan said of her job. "Get an education where you can get a job and you can use your head, that's the type of job you want."

Jonathan Rhodes
Divergent paths

They were good boys with hard-working parents.

They attended private schools and were active in church. But Jonathan Rhodes, who was in the Krolik class in 1990, went one way and his older brother, James, went another.

Jonathan excelled academically, while James -- known by family members as Shawn -- was kicked out of private school for carrying bullets. He was sent to Denby High School, but dropped out in the 12th grade. He started dealing drugs.

A month before James' 20th birthday, he went to pick up then-9-year-old Jonathan from St. Jude Elementary. But he never made it. Five bullets riddled his body 2 miles from the school.

Their father, James Sr., said it was a retaliation hit for a fight James had with the brother of a drug dealer. James Sr., does not know his son's killer but said people in the neighborhood do.

"They were both mannerable children, but Shawn was more so a follower," James Sr. said.

Jonathan has a 3.2 grade point average at East Catholic High and is headed to Michigan State University in the fall. At East Catholic, he is the student council president, a member of the debate team and a peer mediator.

Jonathan doesn't talk about his brother much, and that worries his father. But on Christmas and Father's Day, Jonathan gives his father gifts from both him and his brother.

LaRoi Davis
Cooking in the classroom

LaRoi Davis is part student, part fill-in parent, part culinary genius and part . . . card marvel?

The Denby High senior will take two of those roles -- student and cook -- with him this fall to the Western Culinary Institute in Oregon where he will study to become a chef.

There he'll learn to cook exotic, international cuisine, but for now, down-home macaroni and cheese is his specialty.

"I don't eat that stuff out the box," he said.

LaRoi, 17, is the oldest of four children. His mother worked the midnight shift at Hutzel Hospital until recently, and depended on LaRoi to pick up some of her parenting responsibilities.

"I do most of the cooking anyway," he said.

Still, LaRoi's mother, Vonda Davis, knows that her son's first responsibility is that of a student. And this year was a crucial one.

LaRoi had a 1.0 grade point average last year because he missed classes to gamble at school with friends. They played tonk, and he earned money -- and a reputation -- as a card marvel.

"I went to lunch three hours straight," to play, he said.

The extra money made his mother suspicious. She thought he might be involved in drugs.

"She did for a minute," he said. "But, she trusts me. I don't have time for drugs. That's not me."

LaRoi's father, LaRoi Pugh Sr., sold drugs. He was murdered nine years ago. "They say he got killed because of jealous people out here," LaRoi said.

When LaRoi's grades fell, Davis put her son on punishment. He could run track and cross country only if he earned a 3.0 grade point average this year. He came close, with a 2.6 and his mom relented.

What LaRoi wants now is independence. "I really want to get away from home," he said.

And, he plans to take a deck of cards to college.

Starleisha Saddler
'I should have made better choices'

Starleisha Saddler wants a better life, she just doesn't know how to get it.

She didn't have much parental support as a young girl. Her mother, Muriel Saddler, was addicted to crack cocaine and sent her six children to live with her sister in Taylor when Starleisha was about 10.

In the eighth grade, Starleisha was reading on a first-grade level while enrolled in special education classes in Taylor.

While she was in Taylor, she said, boys didn't show much interest in her. But when she returned to Detroit schools, the boys came calling. And she answered.

"I got fast and it went to my head," said Starleisha, 18.

She also got pregnant.

She dropped out of Mumford High in 2001, she says, because her pregnancy made her too tired to get up for classes. She said she'd eventually like to go to a trade school for carpentry or nursing. In the meantime, she is raising her 1-year-old daughter, Salecia.

About two months ago, she stopped going to an adult education center where she was pursuing a GED.She still has difficulty reading and wants a tutor.

Starleisha knows she is teetering on a cliff now; one negative temptation could push her off, but a tutor, her GED and a job could put her on firm footing.

Starleisha's father, Grady Johnson, was in and out of prison for committing a felony with a firearm and manslaughter. She wrote to him a couple of times. He didn't respond until she wrote and enclosed $20. He wrote back asking for more money.

Starleisha has the street tendencies of both her parents, but she's also street smart and mature.

"I know what I want; I just don't know how to get it," she said. "I don't know what I'm really good at. I like poems and would like to write them, but half the stuff I don't know how to spell."

Starleisha says having a baby as a teen was one of her biggest mistakes, though now she couldn't love Salecia any more than she does.

"When I had her and brought her home, I didn't even want her," she admitted. "I was depressed for a while."

She said she still regrets her decision to move in with Salecia's 19-year-old father when the girl was born. By the time their baby was 2 months old, he became abusive toward Starleisha, she said. He then disappeared. She said he calls sometimes to check on the baby.

"I think I should have made better choices," she said. "I would have studied harder. I wouldn't have had a baby and I would have waited to have sex."

As for Saddler, 42, she's back in her daughter's life. She doesn't want her to make the same mistakes she did -- a 12-year addiction to drugs. Saddler said she's been clean for seven years and works the midnight shift at a General Motors Corp. parts plant.

"When I got sober I realized I didn't know my kids," Saddler said.

Starleisha moves between the homes of her cousin and mother when friction arises. "She's trying to be a mother now, but she missed out on all those years when I really needed her," Starleisha said. "I feel like it's too late."

Edward Peace Jr.
Strained relations
They don't know how their son got to this point -- he's an 18-year-old high school dropout without a job.

What they do know is that bad decisions put Edward Peace Jr., in a sad predicament.

He left Denby High after the 11th grade because he didn't like it when the school changed to a uniform-only dress code.

His next stop was Glendale Trade school, but he quit in January because it was too far from his east-side home.

Edward Jr. considered going into Job Corps, a national program that provides job training for youths. But he didn't want to stay on campus as required.

He has no plans to attend any school and has expressed interest in giving the scholarship to his 13-year-old sister, Tiffany. His next mission is to find work.

"Can't do much without a job," he said.

His mother, Sallie Lunsford, and father, Edward Sr., are saddened by their son's apathy and have blamed themselves and each other.

When their son was in seventh grade, he was sent to live with relatives in Ocean Springs, Miss., but Edward Jr. returned after a year because he was homesick. His father thinks it was a turning point.

"He was on the honor roll, playing on the basketball team," said Edward Sr., who drives a long-haul truck and is often away from his home. "I do believe his mother convinced him to come back up here."

The Krolik scholarship was brought up on occasion, but it didn't seem to motivate Edward Jr.

"I wish he would have walked across that stage," Lunsford said, "and went to college. I believe he can get a trade if he puts his heart to it and finishes."

Andre Pope
Ready for success

Andre Pope wears a suit when his peers wear jeans and T-shirts. He goes to church when others his age are hanging out at the mall. And he takes apart computers -- for fun.

Andre is a senior at Davis Aerospace Technical Center. He has already enrolled in Baker College for a program where he can pursue an associate's and bachelor's degree, simultaneously.

He plans to major in computer network technology in the fall.

Andre, 18, has struggled academically. He has a 2.0 grade point average, and has had to repeat biology, chemistry and geometry.

But he seems thoughtful beyond his years, especially when he talks about his father.

Andre stopped speaking to his father about three years ago. He said there was a lack of communication, and he thought it was better to just end contact.

"I don't miss him," Andre said.

Andre's mother, Bonnie Pope, remembers when the contact ended.

"He spent time with his dad when he was small until he was 9. He'd come and get him on the weekends. Then his dad slacked off being supportive," Pope said. "He would let him down so many times that he started realizing he's not very supportive."

Pope, 46, who has worked for DTE Energy for 26 years, said her son is on the right track.

"He's a good boy," she said.

Erik Gregory
Not yet ready for college

Erik Gregory dreams of playing football. He played during his first two years in high school, but for the past two years, he has been kept off the team because of bad grades. His mother, Sheila Jackson, masks her disappointment in her son's academics with hope. She knows Erik has promise.

She said he just needs to be more mature and take advantage of his opportunities.

"The teachers always say he can do better," she said.

Jackson, 39, was so concerned about Erik's grades that she had him tested when he was younger to see if he belonged in special education. He tested two grades below his grade level, but was told he didn't belong in special ed.

Erik, 17 and now a senior at Southeastern High, also scored low on his SAT and must retake it.

"I'm really not ready to go straight to college," Erik said. "I just want to wait awhile."

Erik said he plans to go to college in a year, after he works and saves money. He, of course, wants to play college football. He said he wants to get a degree in business in case the football career doesn't develop. His backup plan is to own a business selling sports memorabilia.

Erik has felt he had to grow up quicker than many of his peers. His father died suddenly two years ago of an enlarged heart.

Ironically, Jackson describes her son as immature. She said she will continue to encourage him to go to college. She said they often spoke of the scholarship.

"I never let him forget it," she said. "When he would bring these report cards home, he didn't really understand the significance. I knew what it meant."

Annette Goree
Krolik kid moves south

One of the first things Annette Goree noticed about living in Lincoln, Ala., was that there was a big difference between a country block and a city block.

"You have to go so far to do everything," Annette said.

Annette, her mother and stepfather left Detroit for Alabama when Annette was in the eighth grade. Her mother and stepfather wanted a change of scenery, but also a chance to put Annette in a better school system.

"It was kind of hard because I was so different than everybody else," Annette said of her new school in the South. "I dressed different. I didn't talk to too many people."

But after the initial awkwardness, Annette adjusted to country life just fine. She has a 2.9 overall grade point average at Lincoln High and has applied to attend college at Alabama State University, Southern Union and Tuskegee University.

"I want to go into maternity nursing because I like dealing with children," she said.

Annette, who is 6-foot-2, also was a two-year captain for her high school basketball team.

She still visits Detroit frequently and considers it home. Most of her family, including her father, still lives in Detroit.

Antwan Chase
Ahead of the game

A few distinctions separate Antwan Chase from his Krolik classmates.

He was the first student to use the college scholarship. He was the only one who graduated from high school a year ahead of schedule.

And he was the only one to wear a necktie the day the class photo was taken by the Free Press in 1990.

Antwan has moved to Glendale Heights, Ill., to study at Universal Technical Institute, where he is learning to be a mechanic.

The 18-year-old lives off-campus with three other students. He is learning the things most students learn when they leave home -- how to balance his budget and his time.

"He's doing well," said his mother, Julia Chase.

Antwan always has had a passion for cars. When he was 4 years old, he could identify the make and model of every car that passed on the street, his mother said. His grandfather repaired city buses and his uncle refurbished other vehicles, which sparked Antwan's interest. Antwan also used to build model cars.

"That's where I picked up the concepts and learned all the names of the cars, and it just grew from there," Antwan said.

Chase had some concerns initially about Antwan moving to Illinois. Though he is about 25 miles from Chicago, Chase worried how Antwan might blend in a suburban area that is predominantly white.

"I just wanted to make sure he conducted himself appropriately so he wouldn't be in any trouble," Chase said. "It's not that I had any trouble out of him, but kids are away from home, they sometimes act differently than when they are with their parents."

Although Chase is grateful Antwan is experiencing life outside of Detroit, the family misses him at home and he misses them.

"I miss seeing all the people I grew up with," Antwan said.

Donald Withers
'I just live a normal life'

Donald Withers admits his day-to-day life isn't very exciting.

He has a 2.7 grade point average at Martin Luther King Jr. High School and works part-time at a Detroit grocery store. He has never been in any trouble, and plans to go to school to learn computer engineering. He is in a vocational program and spends part of his school day learning about manufacturing at the General Motors Corp.'s Hamtramck assembly plant. "I just live a normal life, I guess," Donald said.

But there's something to be said for normalcy. Donald, 17, says he sees the difference between his life and the lives of some of his peers. Donald's parents have been married for 20 years, and Donald said having his father in the house has made a big difference. He knows he can't get away with anything.

"I know a lot of people who don't have a father," Donald said. "To have a mom and dad still together, it's a positive."

Donald said he avoided trouble because of his upbringing, and the need to please his parents.

"If I get in trouble, my family would look at me differently," Donald said. "To me, it's not worth it all. I don't want to mess my life up, basically."

Donald always was expected to attend college. His mother, Veronica Withers, is a dental hygienist and has a bachelor's degree in applied sciences. When she was in school, she would often tote Donald and his older sister to campus with her.

Donald will attend MSU, where most of his friends and his cousin, former Krolik classmate Jonathan Rhodes, have been accepted.

India Pope
A New York state of mind

India Pope has escaped once, and she hopes to do it again -- soon.

First, her mother was able to move her away from the poor, crime-ridden neighborhood of her preschool years. And in another year, India plans to leave home for the Big Apple.

She's a junior at Chippewa Valley High in Clinton Township. When she was in the second grade, she attended a private school, and was held back a grade after performing poorly on standardized tests. Her current grade point average is 2.8. She takes art classes at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and works part-time at a Clinton Township White Castle.

India, who is Andre Pope's cousin, plans to attend Parsons School of Design in New York. It's always been her dream to become a fashion designer. She's putting together a portfolio and working on a self-portrait -- both requirements at Parsons.

"I've always been an artist," said India, 17. "I've always liked clothes and art."

India's mother, Janice Pope, a DaimlerChrysler employee, worked overtime to save money and move her family to the suburbs. She fretted about the obstacles of raising her three children in their east-side neighborhood.

Pope appreciates what she has been able to give India, and what the Free Press has promised her -- partial tuition to one of the nation's premier design schools.

"We always talk about it," Pope said. "It will help her out a lot."

Malika Bryant
Family influences
The original article about a promised scholarship hangs laminated on the wall in Malika Bryant's bedroom as a daily reminder. Malika, 17, a senior at Grosse Pointe South High, knows that good grades will bring her closer to two goals: becoming the first person in her family to go to college and being reunited with her grandfather.

"That was all my inspiration and it's important because no one in my family has gone straight to college. I have no excuse because the money is there," she said, referring to the scholarship.

Malika also wants to be closer to her grandfather, who lives in Louisiana. She's applying to Grambling State University, in Grambling, La., Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, and Alabama State University in Montgomery. She plans to major in business administration and management.

She and her best friend hope to open a business, Bryant on the business end and her friend on the fashion end. Bryant has a 2.8 grade point average. She's a cheerleader and a member of the debate team.

Bryant, who moved to the Grosse Pointe school district after preschool, said her father has never been a part of her life. She said her mother, Nina Bryant, and her grandparents have been the most influential adults in her life.

"I'm looking forward to graduating and making them proud," Malika said. "No one necessarily pushed me, and said that I should go to college. I just kept telling myself: 'You have the money and you can do this.' "

Jamel Stuart
Pushed to perform

She was 17, with no money, a 2-year-old son and a family that didn't believe she could make it on her own.

Early on, she worked at McDonald's to take care of her son, Jamel Stuart, and she always promised herself that he would never want for anything.

"He never went without," said Cheryl Lynch, who raised Jamel by herself. "There was never a day he went hungry."

The struggles she had made her push Jamel, 18, to excel in school. She swings between disciplinarian, doting mother and streetwise friend.

The mother whose cell phone holds a picture of her son is the same one who will embarrass him in front of his peers if necessary.

Two years ago, when she caught him with his pants hanging too low at school, she grabbed him by the collar. "Don't try me," she warned.

"She wanted me to be more presentable," Jamel said.

This same mother keeps a thick yellow folder of Jamel's every achievement -- from perfect attendance certificates to the honor roll. She gave him a new red 2003 Mustang as a gift, and when he graduates from high school, she plans to rent him a Hummer limousine.

"He deserves it," said Lynch, 34, who works at Ford's Wixom plant. "That's what I do to motivate him to do well."

Her method proved successful. Jamel is an honor roll student at Murray Wright High and has applied to attend MSU. He wants to be a video game designer.

Lynch continues pushing him.

"I told him, I ain't your other friends' momma," Lynch said. "This is how I do it."

Michrisha Eddins
'I want to be successful'

Michrisha Eddins' life now does not reflect her life when she was at Krolik.

Today, Michrisha is in a dance group at her church, Great Faith Ministries. She models and is well liked at school.

"I'm popular," said Michrisha, a 3.5 student at Cooley High School. "I won Class Quiet, but everybody knows me."

When she was at Krolik, a bitter divorce and custody battle between her parents split her family.

In 1992, her mother, Pamela Stevenson, alleged that Michrisha's father, Wayne Eddins, sexually and physically abused Michrisha's two older sisters.

Those charges against Eddins were eventually dismissed, but Michrisha and her sisters spent 10 months with an aunt while protective services investigated.

"The only thing I said when I went to court was, 'Don't lie on your father,' " Wayne Eddins recalled. "If it was true, I wouldn't even be here."

Somehow, the family was able to heal. Michrisha's parents both remarried.

And Michrisha's parents have established a cordial relationship.

Michrisha's life is saturated with teenage pursuits. She is shopping for a prom dress and filling out college applications. She wants to go to Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where her older sister, Micia, is enrolled. Michrisha would like to be a pediatrician.

"I just want to be successful in life and not struggle from paycheck to paycheck," she said.

Cornell Reader
Temper stifles potential

Cornell Reader still sports the deep scar above his right eye. It's a sign that he has fought death and won. Cornell was struck by a car in third grade and suffered serious injuries, including a skull fracture.

Now Cornell, 17, is a junior at Pershing High. He also takes classes at Golightly Vocational Technical Center. He's a year behind most of his Krolik classmates because he was held back in third grade while recuperating from the accident.

Cornell said he suffered some brain damage from the accident and battles daily with anger management. He has received counseling.

"I have a temper problem," Cornell said. "I know when it's coming. I try to keep it bottled but it happens sometimes."

Cornell lost his job at Royal Skateland this year because of his temper. He got into an argument with other employees and it became violent.

"He's changed his outlook on life and people since then," said his mother, Yolanda Reader.

Cornell is thinking about joining the Army or Army Reserve. He wants to travel the world.

But Yolanda Reader, a Wayne State University administrator, wants Cornell to go to school.

"I want him to try to use this scholarship," she said.

Cornell wantsto own a string of barbershops someday. He started cutting hair two years ago, and practices on his brother and friends. He wants to be his own boss.

"I can take direction, I just don't care too much for taking them," Cornell said. "People with power always seem to take it a little too far."

Laquetha Gool
Pulling through

Laquetha Gool acknowledges that her grades are low, but she still has aspirations.

The Finney High School senior has a 1.8 grade point average and struggles in math. She won't have enough credits to graduate this spring, and will have to take two more classes.

Still, after graduation, she said, she wants to attend Wayne County Community College and pursue a career as an emergency medical technician.

"I feel like maybe I can save somebody's life and just help people out," Laquetha, 17, said.

Laquetha's mother, also named Laquetha, said her daughter is a joy and is helpful around the house. The elder Gool, 36, had a baby three years ago, and Laquetha has assisted with the child's care. Gool said she recently quit her job at a DaimlerChrysler cafeteria because she thought the toddler's care was becoming a burden on Laquetha.

"We've had our little struggles, but we've pulled through," the mother said. "I just want her to concentrate on school."

Gool said there is no question whether her daughter will go to college.

"There is no doubt. She's very motivated."

Angela Maye
Diploma lost to instability
At 14, Angela Maye was forced to move in with the man she knows as her father, after her mother was evicted from their east-side home.

Angela was failing classes at Osborn High. Both parents acknowledge Angela was a victim of instability, for which they both blame each other.

In the end, the instability might have cost Angela her high school diploma.

Anthony Maye, whom Angela considers her father, said Angela was behind in school when he took over parenting three years ago. He blames Angela's mother, Susie McCarter, for Angela missing school as a middle-schooler because Angela had to baby-sit her two younger siblings.

He said the relationship between him, Angela and her mother is strained so much that he has ordered Angela not to give her mother their phone number.

He says his distrust of Angela's mother began because McCarter claimed Angela was his daughter. She's not.

Still, Angela and Maye have been close since Angela's birth.

"Once she was a baby, I got attached to her," said Maye, who has a 19-year-old son with McCarter, "and I started looking out for her. My kids fell for her."

McCarter tells a different story when asked what went wrong in Angela's life. She said Angela slipped under the radar after she moved in with Maye. McCarter said she she thought everything was fine with her daughter. But then she got a phone call from the school, asking her to come for a meeting.

"I get up there and find out she's missed half the school year," McCarter said.

Angela left Osborn High last year, already a year behind. Angela, 17, is now taking adult education classes at Kellwood Community Schools Center in Eastpointe in an effort to earn a GED. "I've been telling her she needs to go to college, get a better paying job and not have any children at an early age," McCarter said.

McCarter, 36, speaks from experience. She got pregnant at 17. She was a Denby High student, but dropped out in her last year under pressure from her mother.

She never went back.

McCarter lives on the city's east side with her mother, brother and two children.

"She's not getting it together," Angela said of her mother, while crying.

Angela said she doesn't want to repeat her mother's mistakes, and is performing well in school. She would like to become a nurse.

"I tell her, 'You don't want to be like your momma,' " Maye said.

Contact SUZETTE HACKNEY at 313-223-4536 or hackney@freepress.com or JEMELE HILL at 313-223-3215 or hill@freepress.com.

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