We Beat the Street Summary and Study Guide

Sharon M. Draper

We Beat the Street

  • 31-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 22 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by an English instructor with a Master's degree in English
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We Beat the Street Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 31-page guide for “We Beat the Street” by Sharon M. Draper includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 22 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Power of Friendship and Learning Experiences and Education.

Plot Summary

We Beat the Street: How A Friendship Pact Led to Success, is a New York Times best-selling nonfiction work published in 2005 that examines the lives and choices of three friends, Sampson, Rameck and George. All three hail from dangerous and underprivileged neighborhoods in Newark, NJ. Though the boys come from loving families, all three grow up surrounded by violence, drugs and gang activity. Academic success is rare and before they are out of elementary school, all three of the authors feel pressured to conform to society’s expectation that they will engage in a life of crime. Even when still children they have tousles with the law and grave experiences from fighting and robberies.

The pressure of drugs—either using drugs to conform to peer pressure or selling drugs to earn some quick money—is a key feature in the three friends’ lives. They witness drug dealers assault others and are harassed by addicts. Sampson’s participation in a plot to steal from younger, more inexperienced drug dealers lands him in juvenile detention for a month. Rameck’s connection to drugs is the most intimate, as his mother struggles with addiction.

The bad influence of neighborhood friends is an issue for the three boys, especially for Rameck. One day, what starts as two neighboring groups of teens fighting quickly escalates into out-of-control gang violence that includes gunfire aimed at Rameck. Separating from their elementary school friends is painful but necessary for each of the boys to evolve and stick with their education.

Music and theater serve a positive outlet in the boys’ lives. As a youth, George develops a passion for Shakespeare and the orchestra and enjoys going to special trips arranged by a teacher, Miss Johnson, who is determined to expose her students to the world beyond their neighborhood. Rameck entertains the idea of pursuing acting as a vocation, with a theater club advisor offering to get his portfolio and headshots to an agent, but unfortunately the money earmarked from this project is instead spent feeding his mother’s drug addiction. Later on, in college, the friends perform at clubs together, crafting their own hip-hop music. Though they briefly consider making a career out of this, ultimately they decide science and medicine are the safer professional paths for them.

The three friends are fortunate in teachers and mentors they encounter along the way, some of them in the school setting and some found in less-likely spots. Sampson forms a bond with an ER doctor who treats his broken foot when he is just six years old. Noticing Sampson’s passion for science, the doctor explains the treatment plan in detail and lets Sampson examine the x-ray results. In additional to his devoted third-grade teacher, Miss Johnson, George gains insight into his future professional path from a dentist who is happy to talk about what doctors do, how they are educated and even how much money they make. Like George, Rameck has an inspiring elementary teacher, Mrs. Hatt, who praises his abilities and encourages him in theater and academics. Rameck also connects with a thoroughly unlikely mentor, a neighborhood man named Reggie who teaches Rameck some martial arts and Chinese philosophy. Through Reggie, he learns about meditation and the art of quieting one’s mind.

What ultimately ends up saving their lives and protecting their futures is their friendship with one another. Alone, each of the boys fights to get to a magnet school designed to help them get into college, a rarity among the people they know. Arriving at University High School, they are each a bit lonely, because it means distancing themselves from the neighborhood that each grew up in. Once they begin to bond, they see that they have each finally found a sounding board for their fears and ambitions.

While in high school together, they attend a lecture about a Pre-Med/Pre-Dental Program at Seton Hall University. On a whim, and only half believing that they could actually do it, the three of them apply. When they are accepted, they know it’s time to start truly imagining their futures as doctors.

The path is never easy. They are at times pulled back into scuffles with the law and suffer from lapses of crippling self-doubt. They entertain other career options, which might get them out of school sooner. They are encouraged all the way by their Seton Hall advisor, Carla, their families, and most of all by one another. After many long years of study and hard work, the three friends celebrate together when they are awarded their medical school diploma and begin the distinguished career paths they never would’ve dreamed possible when they were kids.

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Chapters 1-5