Abdoulaye

ABDOULAYE gets his three younger siblings up, dressed and fed breakfast before he heads to school, which starts at 8:00 A.M. That school is the Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy II, and Abdoulaye is a member of its first graduating class, where he is on the Dean's List, President of Student Government and works in the school office. One of the special things about Promise Academy II is its relationship to Bard College, whose professors teach college-level courses there. One of those professors, who has taught in colleges for 20 years, wrote, "Abdoulaye is one of the most humble, deeply thoughtful, and analytical students I have had the pleasure of knowing." "He has no bed or room of his own," she continues, "he sleeps on the couch, often with his laptop on top of him; he wakes early to do more homework."

At school, there are various kinds of pressures, one of them being from peers who demand, "Why are you always raising your hand?" Outside of school there are other pressures, including, Abdoulaye says, being stopped and frisked by the police about five times a year.

Through it all, Abdoulaye has devised strategies to keep his eye on the ball — literally, since he plays basketball every day, and figuratively, by sitting in the front row of big classes, so he "won't be distracted." His next classrooms will be at George Washington University in Washington D.C.