DETROIT -

While students are at Detroit Denby High School, principal Tracie McKissic wants them to know they can let their guard down.

"We have to continuously say that there are adults that care about you. There are adults that are going to protect you and that you will be safe here," she said.

She worries about the poverty and crime plaguing this eastside Detroit community. For students, the journey to and from school is dangerous.

"That is not right that kids are not safe when they're trying to do the right thing themselves and many times our students come right to school immediately and let us know they've been attacked and robbed for their cellphone and bus money," said McKissic.

The principal says students also are targeted by drug dealers who camp out near the school at the Mobil gas station at Kelly and Morang.

"What are kids to think, that adults are preying on them instead of protecting them?" said the principal.

Workers at the gas station say when they try to get the drug dealers to go away they're threatened. When they call police they say officers take hours to show up.

McKissic is no officer but she patrols the area herself to make sure students stay on the right path.

"They know what my car looks like. As soon as they see me, 'OK, Ms. McKissic. I'm going. I'm going.'"