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Freshman Focus is the first book in the Carter G. Woodson High School series. Four freshmen students introduce us to their lives and their school in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The first bell has just rung to start the freshman year for Kendra Hayes, Lamar Adams, Destiny Jameson, and Steven Phillips. The four of them share feelings of excitement and uncertainty, but they walk the hallways of Carter G. Woodson High School with a different focus, or perspective, in mind.
An excellent student, Kendra is focused on making good grades in high school. She is also determined to make a name for herself at Woodson and not be known as Malcolm Hayes' little sister. Her classes, the basketball team, and other activities will keep Kendra busy. Soon after Kendra starts school, she is invited for membership in a high school sorority. Kendra's invitation alters her perceptions of others and herself.
Lamar's focus is to make the basketball team and have as much fun as possible in high school. He also wouldn't mind meeting as many girls as he can. After all, he knew that girls want to have fun too. At home, Lamar's goal is to get his mother to honor her promise to him. Standing up to his mother challenges Lamar as well as his relationship with her and his stepfather, but Lamar is determined to regain what he lost.
Destiny is focused on maintaining her superiority over everyone around her. Rich and beautiful, Destiny is perfect and is determined to make sure everyone believes that. Isolated in her perfect world, Destiny is all alone until she meets a popular senior who invites her to join her sorority. Destiny is excited to be asked and looks forward to kicking up her superiority a notch. But Destiny's condescending attitude might jeopardize her membership in the sorority.
New to Charlotte, Steven is focused on shaking off his past. His parents' life of crime stripped Steven and his brothers of having a childhood. Lessons surround Steven at school and at home, but he is committed to making his new beginnings with his foster parents a happy ending. As a member of the JV football team, Steven has another outlet to direct his energy.
Freshman year is tough, but these four are intent on finding their way as they navigate the hallways, demands from teachers, tests, extra curricular activities, friendships, and parents. They have to navigate their journey all while maintaining their focus on what's important to them.
Kendra sat at her desk and stared miserably at the clock. 2:15! Thirty more minutes until I am freed from this prison that they call school, she thought. Kendra glanced over at Lamar who was writing in his notebook.
"Psst!" Kendra called to Lamar as discreetly as she could. Lamar looked up at Kendra and rolled his eyes towards Ms. Hawthorne, who was going on and on about the short story that they read last night for homework.
"Weren't you scared for Rainsford as he ran through the woods running from Zaroff's game? How would you have felt if you were Rainsford, Lamar?"
"Well, Ms. Hawthorne if I were Rainsford, I would have, umm . . . well . . . you know, Ms. H, I like what the author did for Rainsford in the story so I would just keep on keeping on," Lamar replied in his typical fashion.
"Mr. Adams, have you ever been in a situation where you were being pursued and there was no escape?"
"Is fat meat greasy? When I was younger, my mom used to always encourage me to draw and color. I used to draw a picture for her everyday. Well one day I was bored so I decided to do something a little different. I got my crayons and started drawing for my mom. The picture was the bomb, Ms. H. I went and found my mom to show her my masterpiece. When she saw it, she clocked! She kept saying, 'I can't believe you did this! Why, Lamar why? What made you draw on my white walls? Let me get my belt!' Ms. H, I heard the word belt and ran. I ran faster than Michael Johnson, Carl Lewis, OJ, and Kunta Kinte put together! I ran all the way to Kendra's house. I had her hide me in her basement for hours."
The English class and Ms. Hawthorne exploded in feverish laughter at the end of Lamar's recollection.
"Ms. Hawthorne, Lamar needs to tell you what happened later that evening," Kendra commented.
"Go on, Lamar," Ms. Hawthorne conceded.
"It was a few hours later and I was really hungry and bored more than I was earlier. Sitting in Kendra's basement was boring with no toys to play with. Kendra was upstairs with her family eating and laughing while I sat in the basement miserable. All of a sudden, the basement door was flung open and my mom stood at the top of the stairs and said, 'Lamar, honey, dinner is ready. Come on home to eat.' I heard her walk away and thought that everything was all good with my mom and me. I get home and ate my mom's chicken with this pasta. After dinner, I went to my bedroom and was about to shut the door when my mom busted in Ninja style and started flinging that belt all over my butt. After that day, Ms. Hawthorne, I have never been the same. Whenever I see walls, I get sad at how they did me wrong."
There were tears rolling down Ms. Hawthorne's face as she listened to her class comedian tell yet another tale of his childhood. She quickly composed herself enough to make a parallel between Lamar and the plot of "The Most Dangerous Game."
"Well Lamar, you are indeed like Rainsford. You had a chase between you and your mother that at the time seemed like a life and death situation. You thought the hunt was over when she invited you back home. However, once your guard was down she was able to attack you even better than before."
"Man, Ms. H., you take this literature thing a little too far. Can we move on?"
"Well sure, Lamar. Let us end the class with a focused writing assignment."
Immediately the class began to groan in typical student angst. Ms. Hawthorne grinned at her class as she wrote the prompt on the board. Kendra saw that Ms. Hawthorne was serious about the writing assignment and pulled out some paper. She handed two sheets to Lamar and waited to see the prompt that Ms. Hawthorne would inflict on the class today.
Write about a time that you experienced a significant conflict with one of your parents. What was the conflict? How did it begin? How did it end? Who was the winner of the conflict? What was the ultimate lesson learned as a result of the conflict?
"Ms. Hawthorne, I can't think of anything to write," Destiny shouted from the back of the room.
"Destiny, do you mean to tell me that you have never found yourself in conflict with your parents?" Ms. Hawthorne inquired.
"No ma'am. My parents give me everything I want."
"Well class, seems like we need to help Destiny brainstorm an idea for her focused writing because I am sure there has been at least one time that you and your parents were in conflict with each other."
"Destiny, have you ever wanted anything that your parents said no to?" Kendra interjected quickly.
"No Kendra. My parents have enough money to give me whatever I want," Destiny replied haughtily.
Kendra rolled her eyes in reply and began to work on her own writing because there were tons of conflicts that she could write about. If there was one thing she knew about, it was conflict. Her parents were cool most of the time, but growing up with her brother and sister had taught her plenty about conflicts. Then throw in Lamar's family and that doubled her conflict quota.
"Hey Ms. H, why don't you call Destiny's parents? I am sure they have some examples of conflict that involve Destiny. She must be repressing memories like those folks on Oprah do," Lamar offered.
Again the class laughed at Lamar's commentary. Ms. Hawthorne attempted to repress her laughter, but it was difficult to do when it involved her most comical student offering commentary about her most obnoxious student.
"Ms. Hawthorne," Destiny called out, "I have an announcement to make. My fourteenth birthday is in sixty-seven more days. Don't forget. Oh, and please no cheap presents this year. If anyone gets me a cheap present, you best believe I will throw it away. I won't be having a party this year, instead my parents are taking me to New York for a weekend shopping spree."
"Dang, Destiny. Girl, for your birthday I was just going to go to the dollar store and get you some diapers for that shi. . ."
"Lamar Adams!" Ms. Hawthorne yelled quickly. "Don't you dare!"
The class laughed hysterically as Destiny quietly sat down while mean mugging Lamar for his rude remarks.