This study investigated the social network system of African American early adolescents (N = 237) in rural, low-wealth schools, specifically in terms of networks with norms strongly favoring effort and achievement. Networks with norms favoring effort and achievement were more likely to be central to the social system at the end of the school year. Subsequent analyses focused on boys (n = 103) and the effects of affiliation in networks with norms that strongly favored effort and achievement. Twenty-four percent of boys sustained membership in these networks and experienced greater school valuing and likeability, but reduced admiration among peers, net of scores at the beginning of the school year. The results of the study stand to inform both an understanding of positive peer group affiliations of minority boys and intervention work with this population by clarifying developmental mechanisms that contribute to positive school adaptation among rural African American boys.