On a September morning, Toni Little was enraged at the number of students in her class. There were 42 students, when she only expected half. In total frustration, she asks the students to write an essay based on a prompt that she would provide so that she can weed out some of the students. Meanwhile, Scott Braxton was overwhelmed during the first day of classes. Despite his business, he still finds the time to try and track down Olivia. He was worried that she might not enroll for her senior year. The following morning, Little asks her students if they had any idea where Olivia is. None of them seemed to know where the she is. By the end of the assignment, five students dropped out of her class. The first piece that she introduces to her class was The Crucible by Arthur Miller. She notices that Olivia is absent from her class. While Little was discussing, a student named Sadikifu, or Sadi interrupted her. He discussed about how religion was forced on the people. After her class, Julia, one of Olivia’s best friends, went into her classroom. She asked about Olivia, to which Julia told her that Olivia didn’t have any means to get to school. Little asked Julia to make sure that Olivia gets in touch with her—Little wants Olivia to get back to school, even if it meant that she’d drive her everyday.
Sadi is one of Little’s favorite students. He is black and aspires to become a writer. He used to dislike people from other races, but after reading The Great Gatsby, his perspective changed. Sadi’s mother, Thelma, was one week shy of her 41st birthday when he was born. The only child of Muslim parents, he was considered to be their gift from Allah. His name, Sadifiku, means “truthful and honest”. Sadi’s father became addicted to crack and left their family when he was five. Thelma became a single mother and because of her need for a liver transplant, they had to survive on welfare. She believes that he became bright and articulate because she talked to him as her equal, and not as a child. Throughout his childhood, Sadi always attended gifted classes. Thelma knew that his intelligence would be his ticket out of the ghetto. Sadi was about to get into a prep school in Pasadena on a scholarship when his father resurfaced. Thinking that it might help, he decided to give the school a call. However, on the application, it was stated that Sadi’s father was absent. His application was rejected and his father disappeared once again. Sadi ended up being rebellious, out of anger towards his father and being tired of his mother’s lectures about academics. Sadi was expelled from Crenshaw because of fighting. He changed when he was arrested. His first year back at Crenshaw was difficult, but he persevered. He had no friends. However, after winning first prize in the city speech championships, he felt accepted once again and is now back on the right path.
Toni Little was conducting a review of AP Literature with her class on the second week of class, wherein they spent a lot of time with the basic concepts after the roll call. During the discussion, Olivia, a working student who has been missing for quite some time due to her work schedule, turned up and joined the class. Olivia’s classmates asked how she was, and she obliged them with some information about her financial status and where she was currently staying. She went up to Toni before leaving the classroom. When asked why she was late, she told Toni that her car won’t start and she lived two long bus rides away from the school. Toni gave her instructions for the following day so they can go to school together the next day.
Before the start of the class that Wednesday, students gathered around Sadi, who was clarifying details about the first gang attack on campus from the day before. He explained that two members of the Rollin 60s were stabbed with a knife by a member of the Harlem 30 who retaliated when they attacked him. The discussion was stopped when Toni arrived. She ushered the class into her classroom. Toni had them read The Crucible aloud and facilitated a productive discussion that was interrupted by loud voices coming from the quad. Upon checking with the administration office, a secretary informed her that science classes were being held in the quad. She expressed her frustrations about the noise and the conditions of the learning environment until the class ends.
During lunchtime, the school quad looks more like a penitentiary than a high school due to the additional security measures the school took after the recent stabbing. Additional armed policemen patrol the school along with the male teachers and coaches, preventing potential fights, sending students throwing gang signs to the principal’s office and patrolling the perimeter of the school prevent other gang members from slipping in and retaliating; and increasing the frequency of random weapons check.
Braxton, one of the male teachers on security duty, is in a good mood despite the fact that his lunchtime is spent on security duty because Olivia just informed him that she’s returning to school. After lunch, he has to turn his attention to Toya, a promising student with a rough past; including an abusive, drunk stepfather who strangled her mother and molested her multiple times since she was three. She previously did not show up for school for school from late March to early April.
Braxton was bothered by her disappearance because she has a lot of potential and is on her way to a bright future: Honors in chemistry and physics classes; She was offered a full scholarship for Cornell University’s summer program; and aspires to major in Chemistry at Harvard to become an oncologist after med school. On mid-April of her junior year, she showed up with the reason for her absence. She met with Braxton in the administration office, with her baby. She asked for help to get home study, and Braxton spent the next few weeks looking for a home-study program for Toya, under the agreement that she will go back to school next fall, graduate and go to college. However, on the first day of class this year, she did not show up. Braxton looked for her, and he found out from Toya’s aunt that she moved out with her child, but she did not know where they went. Braxton, having high expectations for Toya, was disappointed and accepted that she was gone.