Grew Up... optimistic, hoping that his mother who was in jail for doing “things women do for drugs” would come back home. Alas, she did not, leaving him parent-less in the rough parts of Chicago, where he struggled to make something of himself despite his circumstances.
Living... with his sister and fellow high-schooler, Chenille; her son, Christopher; and his grandmother, Momma Dean.
Profession... student. If everything goes his way, he is going to be a doctor. Already nicknamed “Medicine Man” by his friends, Derek has hopes of becoming a pediatrician; he's just waiting on his acceptance letter from Georgetown.
Interests... dancing, kids, and his friends. Derek has a way with people, which is why it is so easy for him to approach Sara to ask for a dance.
Relationship Status... recently broken up with Nikki. She left him for a college guy but seems to want him back. Derek then meets Sara Johnson, a new student at school, and volunteers to give her some hip-hop dance lessons. Despite their chemistry, their interracial status (he’s black, she’s white) makes it difficult to have a normal and functional relationship at their predominantly black school.
Challenge... letting go of his past and embracing his future. Derek is excited about what the future holds, but as one of the few black men who has the opportunity to leave his dangerous neighborhood, he faces the unique challenge of having to cut ties with those that threaten to hold him back. That especially means his best friend, Malakai. Derek’s sister, Chenille, implores him to “leave Malakai alone and let that scrub handle his own mess,” but Derek is loyal. Guilt-ridden and afraid of crossing Malakai off “like everyone else” did, Derek gambles with his future for fear of turning his back on his past.
Personality... smart, confident, and loyal. Sarah's first impression of Derek (after he corrects her comment in English class) is that he's cocky and rude. However, it turns out that Derek is just very confident in his abilities – and rightly so. As Chenille describes him: “Derek is about something. He's smart, he's motivated, he's for real. He's not just gonna go make some babies and not take care of them or run the streets messing up his life.” One of the few kids in his tough neighborhood with real drive (and the intelligence to back it up), Derek is primed to do great things. First, however, he has to overcome the bonds that tie him to the old neighborhood – and the new girl Sara just may be the one to help him do that.
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