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Mentorship program brings Detroit teenagers together with police officers

Program aims to form bond between high schoolers, police officers

DETROIT – It’s like Spartans and Wolverines fans working together for a common goal, but in this case, it’s high school students and a group you’d least likely expect. The common goal is to form a bond that benefits not just the students but an entire community.

“I wanted to be a part of a family of another group of females,” high school graduate Rakia Ray said.

“It’s like a bond between different schools. We come together like every week and talk about our problems,” incoming college freshman Julius Draughan said. “They help us get over our problems and give us knowledge on different things.”

Julius and Rakia are talking about the Brotherhood and Sisterhood Mentoring Program they joined through their school. A group of men and women mentor them. Oh, and did I mention they're also Detroit Police Officers?

“They actually like care about us,” said Julius.

“Whatever we need, they make sure that we have,” said Rakia. “They call us on a daily like ‘Do you need this? Do you need that? Are yall okay?’”

"We saw a need that was absent in the community as far as mentorship from the police and so we sought out to engage youth males in high schools across the city," said Marcus Thirlkill with the Detroit Police Department.

Six high schools in total have this program within the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The officers have taken the young men under their wings meeting during and after school.

“When you say mentoring them, what are you specifically doing?” asked WDIV’s Evrod Cassimy.

“We’re engaging the guys to give and inspire them to understand that they can achieve and even inspire for greatness even on the east side of Detroit,” said Thirkill.

“We start tackling different problems that they deal with in everyday lives,” said Officer Steven Anouti. “Then we start focusing on education and seeing what they need help with.”

“It helped me like realize what other females go through,” said Rakia. “Like, I go through my own issues so of course you know they go through theirs too so it’s like hearing their issues and how they deal with it, it help me with my issues. I might have the same problems they have.”

The Brotherhood was started first. Shortly after, the officers saw a need for the Sisterhood. A group of women in blue stepped in with a passion to help.

“We talk about life with them,” said Officer Marcia Williams. “A lot of different things that’s going on with them. We try to find out a little bit more about the ladies to see what are their needs, what are their thoughts, what are their plans for the future.”

Hearing from and being able to talk to the female officers, helps girls like Rakia realize they have a lot in common.

"I was raised in a single parent household and I'm the oldest and a lot of our young ladies are too so they are second moms to their siblings and sometimes it gets overwhelming so what we do is try and give them that support," said Marcia.

Support even when it comes to difficult topics, like the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood have helped with it comes to the student's relationships with police.

“You don’t have to ask the question of whether or not are all officers bad,” said Officer Marian Smith. “No you look and you see and you’re experiencing with us and with our program that there are.”

"When you break that barrier and they say 'We trust you Starr! We trust you our sisterhood!" said Officer Starr Gonzales.

"I know you're tired. I know you're frustrated. I know you may be confused but they get to see the humanity of us and I think that's a proactive way to approach the disparity and the need in the community and our young men and police," said Jelani Jones with DPD.

Students are recommended into the program by school administrators. Both the Brotherhood and Sisterhood work with more than 300 high students. They’re only in six schools right now, they are looking to expand and reach more of Detroit’s youth.


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