After every cataclysm had struck ”” after his father had died and his mother had fallen ill with heart disease, after one older brother had gone into jail and another into a psychiatric hospital, after exhausting the welcome at a sister’s home and moving into a shelter, after shuttling through 13 schools by the eighth grade ”” after all of that, Bukhari Washington clung to one vision.
Somehow, he would still attend Christ the King Prep.
By last spring, he had been admitted to the school, the first new Catholic high school to open in this epically troubled city in half a century. Come September, he was to enter with the first 100 freshmen. Donors had put forward not only tuition for Bukhari, but also money for his school uniform of blue blazer, pressed trousers and striped tie.
Then, over the summer, came the latest twist. Bukhari’s mother, Yvonne Washington, decided to move to North Carolina. She had found an apartment there and planned to get Bukhari’s older brother out of the hospital to live with them.
From the first mention of the plan to leave New Jersey, Mrs. Washington could see the effect on Bukhari, she recalled in a recent interview. His head drooped. His springy walk slowed to a trudge. When they did their nightly Bible study, together in that spare shelter room, Bukhari brought up the lesson his mother had taught so often out of their favorite psalms, the need for perseverance.
“This is something I want to stick out,” he told her of Christ the King. And if going to the school meant remaining in the shelter, forgoing their own apartment safely away from Newark’s mayhem, then he would do it.