But given the opportunity to excel in a better school district away from the tough streets and potential problems that existed in his area, Koroma flourished in his new setting. He made the most of his opportunity to make the most of himself.
Just a first grader, Koroma sometimes went months without visiting his family. But during the time at Milton Hershey he was able to break away from that tough city lifestyle and upbringing in Takoma in order to get his life straight.
He followed a strict regiment at the charter school and was able to maintain a high GPA. He also turned a solid junior season into a fantastic senior campaign where he earned the Class AA Defensive MVP and a first team All-State selection by the Associated Press.
"Milton Hershey, they have high standards there and it preps us for the real world," Koroma said. "It helps us to be successful when we finally graduate from that school and that's what it did for me."
But most importantly, all of that hard work and the sacrifices are finally starting to pay off for Koroma and his family.
"We struggled a lot throughout the years, so this is our break," Koroma said. "The first six years (at Milton Hershey) were some of the roughest years of my life. I just accepted it and knew it was the right decision for me and my family."
The Penn State freshman to be will help anchor Pennsylvania's defensive line this week as they get set to take on Ohio in the 49th annual Big 33 Football Classic. But the soft spoken Koroma was able to begin reaping the benefits of his hard work last July when he gave a verbal commitment to Larry Johnson Sr., and the Nittany Lions. And he did it his way, flying under the recruiting radar, shocking some Penn State fans who didn't know too much about him when word broke.
"Milton Hershey's a really small school," Koroma added. "I didn't blow up there, (head) coach (Bob) Guyer didn't promote me as much, and I thought that was a good thing. I didn't want to be hyped and then go into Penn State having to prove something. If I'm under the radar I have something to work for."
Koroma attended Penn State's summer camp last July, but was offered before the event. He knew right away that Penn State would be one of his top three choices even though they were coming off a 4-7 season in 2004.
"Right away when Coach Johnson came to me, I knew they were going to be in my top three. I just got a good vibe from him. I could have gone to other schools, but Coach Johnson assured me that they were going to get better and he wanted me to be a part of that."
While Penn State was getting back on the national scene in 2005, Koroma polished his game during his senior season, anchoring the Milton Hershey defense that allowed just 146 points the entire season and a District 3-AA playoff berth.
This week in preparation for Saturday's contest, Koroma will give Penn State fans a glimpse of the future when he teams up with fellow Nittany Lion recruits Jared Odrick and Tom McEowen along the starting defensive front for Pennsylvania.
"We get to get comfortable with each other, be able to coach each other and help each other out," Koroma said. "We've gotten closer (already)."
The trio, specifically Odrick and Koroma got to know each other when they attended a game at University Park last season. The chance to play along side each other against other Division I competition this week will only help them prepare for what's in store at Penn State.
"The coaches mentioned that this should be good preparation for us at the next level, so that's how we're approaching it," Koroma said.
With the losses of Scott Paxson and Tamba Hali, the Nittany Lions could be looking for the incoming class to chip in right away. Odrick said last week he expects to see playing time, as does fellow incoming freshman Aaron Maybin. Koroma thinks that all of the incoming freshmen have a chance to make an impact right away.
"I think the floor is open for us. We just have to take advantage of the opportunity to work hard and do what we have to do to be able to compete at Penn State."
"I have to just meet my goals. I just continue to work hard. I see all of these other people out there but that doesn't bother me much. I just keep to myself and stay focused on what I have to do."
It's easy for Koroma to say that when he's done that the past 12 years.