Her baby, Jasiah, was born August 28, 2012; Darshea was back at Catherine Ferguson just a few days later -- sleepless from breast-feeding, terrified, in love. Her first weeks as a mother were also the first weeks she learned about Big Picture Learning.
It overwhelmed her. She didn't understand it, and she wasn't sure the teachers did, either. She couldn't find the required internship. Her major project the first quarter -- research about why there are more African-Americans in the prison system --- earned her an "incomplete."
She missed the familiar comfort of classes, of raising her hand and asking a teacher instead of searching the Internet for an answer. She doesn't have a computer at home, she said, which makes it hard to do homework. Students who struggled even more with school began to leave, she said, and the empty classes put everyone on edge.
"I just broke down crying because I didn't know what to do, and teachers were telling me, 'Don't give up, you can't get anywhere without an education,'" Darshea said. "I know that I want to have a successful future for myself.
"College is the way to go. I could give myself a successful life and future if I could just do that."
But for the first time since she'd come to Catherine Ferguson, she could feel her future slipping away.
One of the academy's teachers, Nicole Conaway, told Darshea about the civil rights group By Any Means Necessary and its desire for Catherine Ferguson to return to a more typical high school curriculum. Conaway, a member of BAMN, encouraged Darshea to get involved, too. The student wasn't usually one to speak up; activism was new to her. But the school had already taught her how important it is to fight for what she needs.
"It was a hard decision for me. I really like Ms. Andrews. I know she thinks I'm a bright student, and I look up to her," she said. "I feel like we should have classes -- do I get what I think I want and deserve as a student in the city of Detroit, or do I continue receiving what someone else wants me to get?"
Jasiah, with his head of tight curls, and goofy smile, helped her decide, too.
"I have to be something in life now," she said. "I have someone that's looking up to me and that I have to take care of."
So while her classmates tugged weeds from the school garden that bright sunny day late last month, she slipped away, tugged a red T-shirt over her uniform white. She became one of the girls on the other side of the fence, yelling about equal education for teen moms
Last week, when By Any Means Necessary filed a lawsuit in federal court, Darshea was among the plaintiffs.
The lawsuit was filed against Catherine Ferguson's charter operator, Blanche Kelso Bruce Academy; the school's charter authorizer, Wayne County Regional Education Service Agency; and the heads of those agencies. It also names the Detroit Public Schools and its emergency financial manager. They did not return phone calls, or said they could not comment on the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that Catherine Ferguson students are being discriminated against because they're receiving a "grossly inferior" education after the switch from a "traditional, comprehensive" high school curriculum. The lawsuit alleges the school eliminated some state-mandated courses, has "done away with all classes, ordered teachers not to teach classes" and does not employ certified teachers in subjects including math, physical education, music and health.
It describes how students seeking credit in certain areas are given packets of work to complete during the semester, and if they're not completed correctly, they receive no credit; how students don't change classes throughout the day, but receive instruction during short weekly meetings with teachers, "now known as 'advisers.'"
"The actions of defendants have degraded the education at CFA in a way that stigmatizes and punishes these young women for being pregnant and having children," the lawsuit said.
Andrews' response: "I would never do anything I felt downgraded the students, and particularly the students I have spent 20-plus years supporting and building."
Despite the lawsuit and protest, Darshea said, this school year hasn't been wasted. She's learned a lot about time management, and the new learning model helped her zero in on a career: After she graduates next year, she'd like to attend Wayne State University in Detroit to become a pharmacist.
But she's stressed by the volume of work remaining and whether she's learning the material she needs. She's a diligent student who's open to change, who won't quit, she said -- but she wonders, what about her peers who might need more guidance or have already given up?
"Maybe if we were always taught in this form, it would be different, but getting taught one way and being told to do it a different way is kind of hard," she said. "I'm already in this big change because I just had a baby, and now this big change of how to learn?"
A gruesome scene
Just a few days after the gardening day protest, the loudspeaker at the school comes to life again. It's Andrews' voice, demanding that a fictional student report to her office.
Teachers and staff understand immediately what that means. They clear the hallways and close the doors. The school is in lockdown.
It's a drill, as much for nerves as for practice. Over the weekend, volunteers arrived at the little red barn beside the school and discovered a gruesome scene: Eight dead chickens and five dead goats. More animals were wounded. A cat was missing, and soon found dead.
Early reports said the animals were bludgeoned, stabbed, slaughtered. Andrews said it was a like a bad movie; the school has hardly had graffiti trouble, let alone a violent crime. When students returned that Monday, investigators still hadn't announced who or what they suspected caused the carnage.