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The new police chief in Detroit had BIG plans for children in the area. He wanted to launch a boot camp style program for middle school age children. The point of the program was to educate children on the negatives of gang affiliation, crime, and drug usage before they are pulled toward these vices. Police Chief James Craig stated he’d had great success in other cities running similar programs.
Because “boot camp” seemed scary and perhaps harsh for children, Police Chief Craig planned to call the program CITI Camp, which stands for Children in Trauma Intervention. He projected the program to last 10 weeks, and that it would be administered by police officers and other adult mentors. While there were some public concerns that CITI Camp would re-traumatize its participants, it was not meant to militarize children or cause added undue harm.
The positive implications of a proactive program such as CITI Camp are great. Many children are growing up in underprivileged, under-resourced areas. A program like CITI Camp helps to remedy some of the problems these children face as a result of where they live, a choice that is often not left to them to make. Additionally, many of these children lack parental support from either one or both parents. Sometimes these parents are not present at all.
So far, the program seems to have created optimism among the Detroit children involved. Jalen Pickett, a student who earned his spot in CITI Camp due to fighting at school, voiced his own praise of the program. Jalen stated, “If Detroit can change, it’s up to the youth to do it. I feel Detroit can come back. And if I do go away to college, I plan on coming back here and giving back to Detroit.” He now plays a more active role in school and speaks out during a class that teaches anger management and conflict resolution skills. Jalen Pickett, a once troubled student, now has big aspirations of becoming a defense attorney. While programs like CITI Camp presumably are costly, in my opinion, seeing the positive effects on just one student make it a worthwhile investment.
Past use of CITI Camp in another city involved 23 students who engaged in a three week program. The students would attend CITI Camp classes three times a week. The program involved physical fitness activities and communication on topics such as drug intervention, problem-solving skills, and self-esteem. Constructive education as to these topics not only aids children in dealing with problems they face now within their community, but this education will help throughout their lives.
It is wonderful to see police officers and other adult mentors playing an active role in the lives of our nation’s children. It would be interesting to collect data on all of the programs throughout the nation working toward the same goals as CITI Camp. It might also be beneficial to research areas that lack effective programs such as CITI Camp in order to create initiative in those parts of the nation. If CITI Camp’s success continues to grow, we, as a nation, should want to expand so that more children reap the benefits of the program.
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