Editor’s note: This story was originally published June 20, 2011.
Conventional wisdom says Danquirs Franklin should be a high school dropout by now.
Instead, he’s about to enroll in college. Danquirs, whose quest to finish high school was chronicled in an Observer story last year, received his diploma from Phillip O. Berry Academy last weekend.
Now he’s preparing to enroll at the Art Institute of Charlotte, and hoping he can put together enough loans and grants to cover the costs of the private school.
“I’m not worried about it,” he said when asked how he’d finance his education. “As long as I have faith in God, it will work out.”
A story in the Observer last August chronicled how Danquirs (pronounced Dan-quar-i-ous) and a lifelong friend, Juwon Lewis, grew up in the same inner-city duplex. Both lacked fathers in the home, both watched their mothers struggle with crime and drugs, and both depended on their grandmothers for love and support.
Danquirs, who was born with cocaine in his system, avoided trouble and stayed close to his grandmother, Mary Boyd. Juwon got into scrapes with the police. His grandmother, Pearlie Mae Lewis, died in 2008.
Both boys spent their first year of high school at Midwood, then a special campus for kids at risk of dropping out. Juwon eventually quit school, but Danquirs stuck with it and moved on to Berry.
“I am so proud of him,” said his mother, Deborah Franklin, who became a positive force in his life after kicking her cocaine habit in 2007. Mary Boyd prepared a huge family dinner last weekend to celebrate her grandson’s achievement.
“A lot of people said he wouldn’t make it,” she said, “but only God knows that.”
Gretchen Anthony, the former Midwood school social worker who helped both boys, said Juwon is still looking for work, and hoping to one day finish his high school equivalency program. She still worries about him, even as she swells with pride over Danquirs.
She calls Danquirs’ achievement “amazing.”
Next month, he plans to enroll at the Art Institute, where he’ll study media arts and interactive media. He hopes to work in films, and write and produce music.
As with high school, college won’t be easy. But teachers say his quiet determination will serve him well. One of his Berry teachers, Shamar Knight-Justice, stopped by his grandmother’s house on Tuesday to drop off more books for him to read over the summer.
“I’m excited for him,” he said of Danquirs. “But I know it’s not the end of the journey. It’s just the beginning.” Danquirs expects to cut his college costs by continuing to live at his grandmother’s. As he did in high school, he’ll catch multiple city buses every day to get to his college classes.
“Unless somebody’s got a car they want to donate,” he said with a laugh. He just got a part-time job working as a server at a comedy club, and hopes the income will help him make ends meet. For now, he insists he’s not worrying about bills.
He’s just happy.
“I’m done. I finished high school,” he said. “I proved everybody wrong who said I wasn’t going to make it.”