According to Slater, “O High isn’t the best school in Oakland, but it isn’t the worst one either, not by a long shot.” Just outside of downtown, the school is “high enough on the hill that you call roll a quarter down Park Boulevard,” but it isn’t completely outside the “regular Oakland drama.” Not many white kids go to O High, but everyone else does. Parents can send their kids to whichever school they please, and “Oakland High is a popular choice.”
Like Sasha, O High doesn’t fit very well into either/or binaries. The school exists in a state of both good and bad, and to focus solely on one is to discredit the other. There are some real problems at Oakland High (like overpopulation and understaffing), but academic programs and educators like Kaprice Wilson make it a good school as well. O High is best appreciated outside the confines of binary thought.
Lots of parents hope that O High is “a little safer, a little saner than [schools] closer to home,” but the school still has problems. At O High there are fights, suicide attempts, and “rumors about who got shot and who hooked up.” Despite this, Slater writes, there are still chances for success. The school offers advanced academics, and there are sports if a student can keep their grades up.
Oakland High students have a chance to escape the city’s cyclical crime and poverty if they take advantage of offered programs. Richard takes advantage of Kaprice Wilson’s program, and this reflects his dedication to making a better life for himself, which in turn implies that he is not inherently a criminal.
“The finish line,” Slater writes, “is marked with a cap and gown and a march across the stage.” By the end of Richard’s junior year, two-thirds of the outgoing senior class will graduate, “but life has a way of sticking its foot out,” Slater says, “and then you are part of the other one-third.” When this happens, it often goes unnoticed at first, until one is suddenly on a path “into a future that is as hazy as weed smoke.”
The uncertainty of Richard’s future further underscores the social inequality present in Oakland. Life has many ways of “sticking its foot out” for Oakland High students, and as members of the lower class, poverty, drugs, and crime are constant obstacles to their academic success.