Roshunda Council is a sweet-faced cheerleader who wears big, round hoop earrings and earns all A’s.
But there was a time, mostly in middle school, when she was also no stranger to a good fight.
“I didn’t necessarily go and pick fights,” says Roshunda, a rising senior. But, she adds, she was quick to respond when provoked. “I just blew it up more than it had to be.”
For this intelligent, lively teenager, middle school was difficult. By her own admission, she studied just enough to get by and she led a rowdy pack of friends.
“It had to be peer pressure. I just didn’t see it as peer pressure then,” she says of that time. “I guess I was still searching for an identity.”
In order to get out of class one day, she took a qualifying test for Richmond Community High School and passed. But Roshunda was reluctant to make the next move and apply to the special school.
“I wanted to come to high school to be with my friends but my mother said, ‘Don’t throw this away,’” she recalls. “I’m so glad that I had a mother who encouraged me to be here because I know had I went to the average high school I’d be in some trouble now.”
But, even at Richmond, Roshunda remained a bit of a handful at first, administrators say. She began to turn around, however, after she took it upon herself to launch a cheerleading squad to support the school’s fledgling basketball team.
“I just needed something to interest me,” she says. “Life is not all academics.”
Now, she says, she easily maintains a footing in the school’s academic world and in the group of friends she left behind--all the time just being Roshunda.
“They know that I’m smart and they know that I’m not a fool and that I’m not going to do bad things, be into violence or shoot and kill,” she says of he friends. “I’m not going to work at McDonald’s for the rest of my life.”
Her motivation to succeed, she says, grows out of a desire not to repeat her parents’ mistakes.
“There was lots of things they did wrong, and they talked and talked and talked to me about that,” she says.
Now, Roshunda, who plans to become an obstetrician, says she is enjoying the new experiences she gets at Richmond.
“If anything, this school opens you up more. It doesn’t keep you in a cage,” she says. “It brought me into my culture and into different kinds of music.”
“I’m playing the guitar,” she adds. “It’s cool.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 09, 1997 edition of Education Week