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“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.”

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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 at Cody High School. The deteriorating 60-year-old building is 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.”

His penchant for fighting earned him a spot in the new Police Department program - the Children in Trauma Intervention Camp. 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.

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.

Childhood was difficult. Jalen said he was neglected by both parents and now lives with a cousin, though he’s determined to help out his mother financially.

“I fought - but that’s like every boy,” he said. “I have a clean record, I’ve never been locked up … I never give up hope.”

John Matthews, Jalen’s principal, empathizes with his students.

“I grew up in Detroit. We always felt life was going to get better,” Matthews said. “These young people don’t see the future as bright.”

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