During the first month of Richard’s time at O High, Cherie gets into a fight and is sent home. She texts Richard in the middle of the day and he leaves school to go meet her at the bus stop. After all, Richard “isn’t really in the habit of going to school, all day, every day.”
Unlike many other students, there is no one in Richard’s life to make sure that he goes to school. He has a loving mother, but she works two jobs to pay their high Oakland rent, and she is often preoccupied.
When Cherie gets to the bus stop, however, she is with Kaprice Wilson, O High’s truancy coordinator. It is Kaprice’s job to intervene when students miss too much school, and she frequently works with the kids who get into trouble. “Can I get in your program?” Richard asks Kaprice.
The fact that Richard takes initiative by asking to be in Kaprice’s program—no one forces him to do it—is a testament to his determination to finish school and keep out of trouble, and this too implies that Richard is not innately criminal.
Later, Kapirce reads Richard’s transcript. Her program is geared more towards freshmen and sophomores (O High has 1,875 kids, and Kaprice can only work with about 275 kids a year) and Richard is already a junior, but he clearly needs her help. His attendance is poor, and his grades are bad, and he has already been to two other high schools. He even spent the entire previous year in a group home in Redding after being arrested for fighting. To Kaprice, Richard’s future doesn’t look good.
Kaprice’s workload is another reflection of the discrimination present in Oakland’s society. Clearly, Kaprice is overworked, and she can’t reasonably be expected to help all the kids in need at Oakland High. Because she is spread so thin, not all the kids at O High are given the same opportunities for success, and this serves to compound their truancy problems.
Kaprice later tells Richard that if he wants to be in her program, he must follow her rules. “I’m going to make you understand the family motto,” Kaprice says. “Never let your obstacles become more important than your goal.” Richard’s goal is to graduate, and Kaprice tells him that “if you don’t comply with the family motto, then just know I have a collection of belts in the back of my filing cabinet and they’re not for sagging pants.”
Richard’s “obstacles” are the discrimination and inequalities that he must navigate each day, and it is a constant struggle to not lose sight of his goals. Richard hopes to graduate, stay out of jail, and simply survive—a stark contrast to Sasha’s own goals to attend MIT and become a city planner. These goals further underscore the disparity between the middle and lower classes in Oakland.