His mother was summoned to a meeting, where Proctor warned Darone that he could lose his scholarship money.
“Shape up, or you’re not going to make it,” Darone remembers being told.
Rose Johnson glowered at her son. She was a single mother, and she wanted Proctor to do whatever was necessary to get Darone on track. She encouraged Proctor to use physical force.
“Treat him like he’s your son,” she recalls saying. “You can [rough] him up.”
After that meeting, Rose was furious with Darone. She had always bought him what he wanted — Nintendo, new sneakers, winter coats even when she could afford only a shawl for herself — by putting items on layaway.
All that was over. Darone would have to attend summer school and pay for it himself. She bought him a $269 lawn mower, then made him pay her back with the money he earned cutting his neighbors’ grass.
His mother told him he would transfer to Eleanor Roosevelt High School, which was considered the best in Prince George’s County. Darone didn’t want to leave his buddies at Northwestern. His mother told him he had no choice. A change would help, she promised.
“What are you going to make of yourself?” Rose Johnson asked over and over.
As 10th grade began, Darone had no idea.
At Roosevelt, Darone found himself in the same place as some of the Dreamers’ most promising students. Monica McIntyre, a talented cellist, went because of the school’s stellar music program. Wendy Fulgueras, the daughter of a doctor and nurse from the Philippines, dove into her science courses. Suziann Reid went to Roosevelt because of its track team, and she began breaking records and drawing the attention of collegiate coaches at Brown, Princeton and the University of Texas.
The Dreamers were scattered among several high schools. Tiffany Alston, for instance, whose mother had vowed to scrub floors so her daughter could become a lawyer, was at Bladensburg High, where she was a cheerleader and president of her ninth-grade class.
Even in elementary school, Tiffany’s maturity was apparent, her comprehension of the world seemingly more advanced than her peers. Once, when a reporter visited her class during a discussion about the lures of the drug trade, 12-year-old Tiffany asked, “How do you tell a hustler to just say no when he’s making $1,000 a day?”