|We Beat the Street|
Sampson, George, and Rameck could easily have followed their childhood friends into drug dealing, gangs, and prison. Like their peers, they came from poor, single-parent homes in urban neighborhoods where survival, not scholastic success, was the priority. When the three boys met in a magnet high school in Newark, they recognized each other as kindred sprits who wanted to overcome the incredible odds against them and reach for opportunity. They made a friendship pact, deciding together to take on the biggest challenge of their lives: attending college and then medical school. Along the way they made mistakes and faced disappointments, but my working hard, finding the right mentors, separating themselves from negative influences, and supporting each other, they achieved their goals--and more.|
In We Beat the Street, award-winning YA author Sharon Draper brings the doctors' childhood, teenage, and young-adult anecdotes vividly to life. Brief "conversations" with the doctors at the end of each chapter provide context and advice in a friendly, nonintrusive way. Young readers will be captivated by the men's honest accounts of the street life that threatened to swallow them up, and how they helped each other succeed beyond their wildest expectations.
During the intermission of the classical symphony, a woman wearing too much perfume and a mink coat, even though it was the middle of spring, walked up to George and said, "What lovely sweaters you and your classmates are wearing."
"Thank you, M'am," George said with a grin, touching the careful embroidery.
"What private school do you children attend?" the woman asked.
Miss Johnson walked over to the woman and said proudly, "These are students from Louise Spencer Elementary, a public school in the Central Ward."
"But they're so well behaved," the woman said with surprise. "Isn't that school in the ghetto?"
Miss Johnson gave the woman a look that could have melted that mink coat and led her students away. George looked back at the woman with hurt and confusion. He wished he could have tripped the smelly old lady.
On the way back home from this trip, George, always the quiet kid, sat alone on the bus seat. "Mind if I sit next to you, George?" someone asked.
He looked up, pulled his long legs out of the aisle, and smiled at her. "Sure, Miss Johnson."
"Did that woman upset you?" she asked.
George shrugged. "I don't know. She smelled like moth balls."
"There will always be people like that, you know," Miss Johnson explained.
"Yeah, I know."
"And you can either let them hold you back, or you can ignore them and go on and do your thing."
"Yeah, I know." George didn't want to admit how much the woman's words had hurt. He changed the subject. "That was a good concert, Miss Johnson. I think it's really cool that you take us to stuff like this."
"Perhaps when you go to college you can learn to write symphonies or plays of your own," she said.
"College? I never even thought about it." To George, the idea of college seemed like something foreign and vague, like going to China or the moon.
"Of course you'll go to college. You're one of the smartest children in my class." Miss Johnson spoke with certainty. "I have high hopes and great expectations for you, George."
"Maybe you do, but some kids think it ain't cool to be too smart, you know," George told her.
"That's the dumbest thing I ever heard!" Miss Johnson said loudly. The other kids on the bus looked up to see what had upset her.
"You don't understand," George said quietly. "It's hard to fit in with your boys if your grades are too good."
"Nonsense!" Miss Johnson replied. "You don't really believe that."
George grinned at her. "Yeah, I guess you're right. I guess I really don't care what they think of me."
"College is cool, George. If you can fit in there, you've got it made."
"Doesn't it take a long time?" George asked, chewing on his lip. He felt a combination of excitement and wonder.
"It takes four years to complete the first part of college," she explained. At the end of that time, you'll be four years older whether you go to college or not, so you might as well go and get as much knowledge in your head as you can."
George looked out of the bus window and thought about what she had said. As the field trip bus got closer to his neighborhood in Newark, he looked at the tall, poverty-ridden, high-rise apartments like the one he lived in, the boarded-up and defeated stores, and the trash all over the streets.
"I don't know how," he said quietly, helpless in his lack of knowledge.
Miss Johnson didn't laugh, however. She just smiled and said, "It's not very hard. Just do your best, keep your nose out of trouble, and one day the doors will open for you."
For the first time, George could see a glimpse of light, a spark of hope and possibility. College. What a cool idea.
"Yo, Sampson, you want to go into business with me, man?" seventeen-year-old Eddie asked Sampson.
"What kind of business?" Sampson asked warily. He had known Eddie ever since grammar school and knew that Eddie had been in trouble with the police several times, so he wanted to feel out the situation before giving an answer.
"It's all legal, man. I'm straight. I'm gonna start me a carpet cleaning company."
"That sounds good," Sampson replied. "I always wanted to be a professional. Things are pretty tough at home, and I could use a gig."
"I need workers--men to help me clean up places like office buildings and stuff. I'll pay you good money."
"How much?" Sampson asked.
"I donít know yet, but it will be good," Eddie replied.
Sampson, always looking for creative ways to make some dollars, thought this would be a good opportunity. It sounded more lucrative than helping people at the local grocery store bag their groceries or carry the bags to their cars or for loose change. Any legitimate way that he could earn a little extra money sounded okay to Sampson. "When do I start?" Sampson asked.
"Well, your first job is to help me get the equipment. It's waiting for me at the store."
Sampson figured his mother and even Reggie would be proud of him for making a wise judgment call. After all, Sampson had always considered himself a sharp decision-maker. The two boys walked a mile to the store, then wandered around inside for a few minutes, looking at the equipment.
As they were leaving, Eddie, whose hands were full, said to Sampson, "Grab that machine for me, man. We're ready to go."
Sampson walked over to the heavy carpet-cleaning machine and slowly pushed it out of the front door of the store. It was too heavy to carry, so he pushed it carefully down the sidewalk, in full view of people walking and cars driving.
Halfway down the block Sampson heard a police siren as a patrol car stopped right next to him. He looked around in genuine surprise as the police officers jumped out of their car and grabbed him. "Where did you get that machine, boy?" one of the cops asked him.
"From the store back there," Sampson answered honestly. "It's for my friend Eddie's new cleaning business."
"And who is this Eddie?" the officer asked.
Sampson looked down the street. He could just barely see the back of Eddie, running away as fast as he could, about to disappear around a corner.
Sampson's heart thudded in his chest. "How could Eddie play me?" he thought. Instead of understanding what had happened, the police officer saw only a boy with a stolen machine on the sidewalk. Sampson felt his hands being pulled behind him and the handcuffs being laced to his wrists. He was in total disbelief.
The police tossed him in their car, took him to headquarters, and booked him for shoplifting. No matter how he tried to explain his innocence, no one wanted to listen. Being set up was the same as being guilty, it seemed, and no one had much sympathy for him.