Duncanville High School has undergone big demographic changes in recent years. Today, about 70 percent of the students are considered economically disadvantaged — students like Rykeyia Branch. The high school senior is juggling classes with a part-time job and her role as manager of the Panthers softball team.
From the moment the game begins, Duncanville’s softball team chants — and doesn’t stop. Rykeyia Branch joins in, sometimes leading the cheers.
She’d rather be playing, but she missed the cut. The coach asked her to be the manager, so she handles equipment and keeps the box scores.
“I felt loved,” she said. “But I was like, ‘no, I don’t want to sit in stands cheering for someone else.’ … I wanted to be someone on the field. I didn’t want to be in the stands.”
But she came to terms with cheering for others.
“I don’t want to be selfish,” she said.
She can’t afford to be. The 17-year-old carries a lot of responsibilities.
Read the entire story from KERA's American Graduate series: "Race, Poverty and the Changing Face of Schools."