Darnell Lisby (Bill O'Leary/WASHINGTON POST)

If I could, I would pay my mother for every day she helped me. She did a lot in my life. She helped me pave the way by helping me see that there’s more to the world than the four corners of my household.

I set my own personal standard of getting no less than a B. I don’t like B’s; I don’t like looking at them. When I started setting a higher standard for myself, my mother did get on track. When I did get a B, it was like, “Oh, what’s going on, Darnell?” A’s I set for myself, but she expected nothing but my best.

My school. . . the primary thing was to graduate, to get the best grades that you can, don’t slack. That whole valedictorian, salutatorian, all that — no. That wasn’t even in our minds until late junior year.

I’m just competitive by nature. I don’t like to lose. Maybe that’s going to be my downfall one of these days. I’m a good sport... but I’m very aggressive when it comes to competition. I don’t do many competitions, but when I do that one competition, I want to win.

I want to major in history, possibly minor in classics, because I really do enjoy history. I always ask: “How did they do it?” You look at things like the pyramids and you say, “How did they do it with a hammer and chisel?” I eventually want to work for the MoMA. I want to become a curator eventually, maybe one day possibly becoming the director. It’s a very competitive job, so it’s for me.

Some people in the past have called me some things that I don’t approve of. Some called me arrogant . . . or “bougie.” I’m not. I’m just as down-to-earth as anyone else. I say, “Work first, play hard later.” I want the best, and people may not understand [where] I come from when I say I want to work a lot. I want to provide for my family. I want to be the best father, the best husband in the future that I can. I’m definitely a giver, and people don’t see that. All I want is the best for my family and the people that I love, and that may sound a little selfish, but to me I think that’s giving.

When it comes to my drive, it’s not going to end.

Darnell Lisby graduated from Suitland High School. He will attend St. John’s University, where he plans to major in history.

— Interview by Erin Williams

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