When Dale Taylor speaks of his 9-year-old brother, his voice trembles and his eyes soften.
"He's on the right track," says Taylor, 18. "But I know he's messed up. He didn't get the love and attention growing up like he needs."
The boys' mother died four years ago, and they never knew their father. They live with their "auntie" and her son in Los Angeles.
Taylor decided to drop out of Washington High School last September, after years of delinquent behavior that began in junior high. With his mom's death, he says, things went from bad to worse. He found it hard to concentrate on his studies.
"It's like I got to school and, bam, see my friend, bam, let's go get high, bam, we're ditching school. People were always asking me to ditch, to go around the corner and buy drugs or gamble. It was the same old, same old."
When Taylor did go to class, he was often high. "Drugs and school just don't mix," he says. "Pot makes you lazy and mellow--it's a downer. Your mind can't think about work. When I was high in class, I didn't accomplish nothing."
His friends did the same. "They just wanted to kick it and enjoy themselves," Taylor says.
Eventually, he left school for good. After a month of "messing around on the street," his aunt put him into the Youth Intervention Program, a dropout recovery center.
"This school is way better," he says. "I can't leave in the middle of the day to get high, and I work with the teachers at my own pace. When I was high, I would just sit in the back and never ask for any help."
Because of his poor academic record, Taylor had to start from scratch; he hopes to graduate in '96. After that, his aunt's welfare payments will no longer cover him, and he will be on his own. "I can't be thinking about the past anymore," he says.
Still, after school ends at 1:30 every day, Taylor is back on the streets. "I know the streets ain't nothin'," he says, "but that's all I know. I'm just out there."