Local teens now ready to lead

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JACKSON, Mich. (WILX) -- During the past week 19 young men focused on domestic violence, drug abuse, and gang awareness as apart of Michigan State Police's Youth Leadership Academy.

They also learned about how to become leaders, which is something people say Jackson needs right now.

"Those are the communites that we want to target so we can change them and help them develop some of the skills that will help them move forward in their life," Trooper Travis Fletcher said.

State Police officers say when the boys first arrived at MSP Headquarters Sunday, they knew they had their work cut out for them. They said the teens had trouble working as a team and some had a poor demeanor.

"When the got off the bus I thought, alright this is going to be a challenge. Especailly in the class setting and the first day was difficult we had some difficult interactions with each other," Trooper Andrew Young said.

But it didn't take long for the the troopers and kids to turn things around through grueling personal training at 5 a.m. and military drills. Teens who participated told me it definitely wasn't easy but officers made sure they got the message.

"Before a lot of PT or during it if we were struggling, Trooper Young here would bring us into the building in front of this sign, and the sign said, 'if you think you can, you will, if you think you can't, you're right.' Its one of my favorite quotes now. I'll never forget it," Matthew Rankin said.

The teens who took part either volunteered to do the program or were reccomended by their parents or school counselors. Trooper Travis Fletcher says even though it was a tough week, he thinks they're ready to do good for Jackson.

"Letting them know that they can has given them a boost of confidence. So I strongly believe that they are going to go out in their commuities, whether its something huge or something with their friends, just letting them know, to do the right thing," Trooper Fletcher said.