“When I hear all that negative stuff about black males, it makes me want to do even more,” says Demetrious Daniel, who graduated this spring.
The oldest of three boys, Demetrious is trim, neat, and compact. He keeps his hair close-cropped and his manners friendly.
“He always liked school,” says his mother, Delores McLean. “In middle school, he was like the two younger boys I have now--very active. But as he got older, he started maturing.”
During his upper elementary school years, Demetrious and his family lived in a housing project. But he is proud of the long, slow climb that they have made out of the projects and up the economic ladder. The first rung was subsidized housing, where the family lived for several years.
Now, Demetrious and his mother and brothers live in a single-family home with a front and back yard. His parents divorced a few years ago and his mother, who never attended college herself, works as a cook in a nursing home.
In middle school, he remembers, there were classmates who put him down for studying, doing his homework, and getting A’s and B’s. And, while he tried not to call attention to his grades during those years, he didn’t try to hide them much, either.
“I realized those people saying negative things weren’t going to be with me always. I had to reach within myself to do right and to focus on my studies,” he says. “You’re going to be with you always.”
When Demetrious and his family moved to their current home, only a handful of children lived in the neighborhood. Now there is a group of teenage boys who hang out together. But Demetrious says he has never felt pressured to give up his books and join them.
“A big part of my life has been my church, which is a couple of blocks up the street from me, and they know I go to church,” he says. “I don’t receive any pressure from them because I’m not out there with them.” Demetrious has worked at Southside Baptist Temple’s after-school program and in its weekend bus ministry. This summer, he is a full-time camp counselor there.
Demetrious is optimistic about his future. This fall he will enter the University of Richmond, where he plans to study to become a certified public accountant. He says he has never really given much thought to whether discrimination will get in his way after he leaves Richmond Community High School.
And he sees no conflict between his cultural roots and his academic success.
“My culture is all about succeeding because we have come a long ways,” Demetrious says. “I believe I will always be accepted by my culture. The problem lies in if I succeed and I forget where I came from.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 09, 1997 edition of Education Week