Sitting patiently in the school’s reception area on a recent day was Michael Inyard, whose daughter, Chelsea, is a 10th grader. Unable to drive because his license is suspended, Inyard rides with her on the bus to and from school.
It’s a brutal schedule, given that he works overnight at a Chrysler plant, but he considers the crowded buses too dangerous for Chelsea to ride alone.
“I’d be a bundle of nerves any other way, wondering what’s going on with her,” the father said.
Speaking generally about Detroit’s upcoming generation, he added, “These kids have a rough time. They’ve got to be on the alert for whatever, whenever.”
Ten miles west of Ben Carson, at one of Detroit’s less glamorous high schools, 17-year-old junior Jalen Pickett was indeed on the alert - a police officer was about to shove him during a workshop aimed in part at teaching anger management and conflict resolution skills to a dozen often-in-trouble students.
“How would you react to that?” Officer Melvin Chuney asked the group after using Jalen as his foil.
The setting was a disused classroom on the third floor of Cody High School. The 60-year-old building, in a neighborhood dotted with abandoned brick homes, has deteriorated enough to be the target of a volunteer face-lift effort this summer.
Jalen, now a diligent student with aspirations to be a defense lawyer, had an inauspicious start to high school.
“I got into a fight my first day,” he said. “I was kicked out a lot, didn’t get along with any of my teachers. I cursed on them … I was horrible.”
His penchant for fighting earned him a spot in the new Police Department program - the Children in Trauma Intervention Camp. In essence, it offers the students an alternative to expulsion in the form of training and counseling from police officers and other adult mentors.
“Everybody knows you’re in here because sometimes you made bad decisions,” said the program’s leader, Officer Monica Evans, whose exhortations included biblical references and raw street language.
Tackling the concept of self-reflection, Evans asked the students to write about what limits them.
“I have to be focused and confident that nothing can stop me from getting out of the ‘hood,” said one boy’s statement, read aloud by Evans.
The program has clearly motivated Jalen Pickett. He now opts to wear a necktie each day despite teasing from his friends and is studying hard with hopes of going to an out-of-state university.