Proof point: years ago, Ms. Northern had an idea to combat the dropping graduation rate at Raines.
'I had the idea to start with the end in mind,' Ms. Northern says, her careful cadence of words drawing her audience in. 'So we held a baccalaureate at the beginning of the school year. We ordered the caps and gowns for everyone. I don't care if they were an F student or a C student-they all had a cap and gown. Then we marched.
'Guess where I was during the ceremony?' Ms. Northern asks India.
'Where?' India says.
'Behind the video camera,' answers Ms. Northern, grinning.
'Of course you were, Ms. Northern,' India says. 'Of course you were.'
That year, the graduation rate saw the uptick that the administration and Ms. Northern were hoping for.
India was the kind of student that teachers want to duplicate, according to Ms. Northern. 'If you gave her a project, she would see that project through from beginning to end. Then, she'd talk the other students into believing that they could accomplish it as well.'
And now, she's pleased that India has come back, proud that she'd consider what Raines and the people who've been a part of her life have done to help her.
'She's not only looked back, but she's embraced her history,' Ms. Northern says. 'And for that, I am so proud.'
Since junior high school, India dreamed about going to a four-year college. She had her mother's unwavering support, and they would do whatever it took to get her there, but India would have to figure out the steps. No one in her family had done it before.
'That's one of the struggles I think can be intrinsic to some kids coming from single-parent homes like I did,' India explains. 'Maybe they're dependent on food stamps or government assistance. Maybe they have to work while in college, whereas somebody else can just focus on going to school. They just have different challenges than some people would. They need help to figure out that path.'
That's where Ms. Northern stepped in.