During an earthquake drill, JEAN and MARIA declare that their abstinence vow is "going, going, gone." Later, Jean, whose dream is to attend the Chicago Art Institute, goes to his first "Portfolio Review" and gets "highly recommended." At another review Maria, who loves photography, gets discouraged by one of the reviewers and doesn't even try to see another. Depressed, she worries "Maybe I'm not an artist."
Maria's mom was once a beauty but is now stuck working in a hotdog stand and pretty much beaten down by life. She is raising two of her grandkids who were taken away from their mothers, her daughters. "She's paid to take care of them. Maybe if she were paid to take care of me she'd pay more attention." Maria wishes Jean would show her more affection because of her life at home.
KARLA struggling through school, has a good but contentious relationship with Mr. Donlucas, a Latino teacher who believes his student has the potential to achieve much more than she realizes.
BORIS, a Russian immigrant, has a killer schedule with four Advanced Placement classes. He is close friends with Rena, who worships him, and Dr. Shusterman, his English teacher, who thinks Boris is brilliant but difficult. "He's like a man without a country." Boris's mother describes the pain for him of leaving Russia when he was 8 years old. "It's like your old life just died."
ELIZABETH, like Boris, is trying out for the Academic Decathlon team. Born in the U.S. to Korean parents, she is torn between her mother's world and her own. More at ease with other races than her own, she feels "caught in the middle."
In less than a year, UNITY, has become a leader on campus. Rastaman, rapper, revolutionary and unifier, he's in love with rap music and writes his own songs. His parents named him Unity, which he didn't like at first, but now he feels he's grown into the name.