Denver, Colorado

Medium: Do you generally like school?

Tirique Williams: Yeah.

Do you do well at school?

Yes.

What subjects do you like the best?

Math and science.

What math are you in right now?

I’m in AP calculus.

That’s pretty hard, isn’t it?

Yeah, a little bit.

What are you taking for science?

I am taking AP physics.

Wow. You must be applying now to colleges, too?

Yes, ma’am. Nine colleges in total.

Do you know what you want to study in college?

Not specifically, but I know I want it to be along the lines of engineering.

What do you do for fun, outside of your studies?

Ultimate sports club. I also do tae kwon do, and when basketball season starts up, I’ll be doing basketball.

What level are you at in tae kwon do?

I’m a second-degree black belt.

Do you like it?

I love it. I’ve been doing it for nine years.

That’s a long time. Do you remember how you go into it?

I think my parents took me because I had a situation at school that required me — something happened, and I guess my parents felt I was unsafe, so they put me in tae kwon do.

What do you think adults get wrong about your generation?

I would say the phone, or backpacks.

You’ve had a problem with people thinking that because you have a backpack, you might be doing something wrong?

Yes.

In stores or on the street or what?

In stores mostly.

They think you’re going to steal something?

Yeah.

Is that because it’s a kid thing? Do you ever feel like it’s a racial thing?

Depending on how the person approached me, I would determine from there.

Can you explain the difference between how one reaction would be different versus the other?

If it was a kid thing, the tone of their voice would be like, “Oh, can you leave your backpack?” And they would suggest reasons why. If it was a racial thing, it would be like, “Leave your backpack there.” It’s firm, just that.

Do you personally feel safe?

Yes.

You hesitated a bit. Do you sometimes not feel safe?

I can speak for myself. I feel safe, but I’ve had friends who tell me stories how they got stopped by the police, and that right there doesn’t necessarily make me feel unsafe, but just in my mind, “Oh, that could happen to me.” Stuff like that.

Do you have to think about how to act if you get stopped by police?

Yeah. I go over it with my parents, like procedure and what should I do.

What do they say you should do?

Remain calm, and if they ask for license and registration, I would tell them that I’m reaching for license and registration. Explain to the police what I’m doing at all times.

Is Denver pretty diverse?

Denver is pretty diverse, yes.

Do you like living there?

Yeah.

Have you lived there your whole life?

No, I have not. I lived in New York City.

When did you move?

I was four.

Do you remember liking New York?

I would assume so.

What do you think the future holds for you?

I’m hoping greatness.


This interview is part of The Edge of Adulthood: Forty-Six American Teens Discuss Their Lives, Their Struggles, and What’s Next.