Yolonda faces many systematic obstacles to fulfilling her potential, especially ones due to societal prejudices and racial discrimination. It is important to note that the way she faces these obstacles helps her develop an admirable inner strength and maturity.
The first obstacle she faces is being from a poor family, and being raised by Josie, a single mother. Because Josie works, Yolonda must act as a caretaker for her younger brother Andrew.
When Yolonda's family lives in the city, school violence and drug dealers are major obstacles, and Josie removes the children to a small town. Although in some ways Josie acts as an obstacle in that she does not always understand either Andrew or Yolonda, she is portrayed nonetheless as a good mother, loving and responsible, and always working hard to improve her children's lives.
Yolonda is alien to small town culture, and some of the same problems of drugs resurface there. Another obstacle in the new town is a gang called the Dudes from whom she needs to protect her brother Andrew.
Next, Yolonda is overweight, and many of the other students are prejudiced against her and mistreat her because of her weight as well as her race.