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Detroit police officer Bryant George mentors at-risks youths, teaching them basic skills in navigating life, such as how to tie a tie David Guralnick, The Detroit News

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Detroit police officer Bryant George knows what it’s like to grow up in a neighborhood plagued by crime, gangs and poverty, and he’s working to help young men navigate that rocky path.

“Every young man needs a strong male role model in their life — it’s that simple,” said George, 30.

George, who is assigned to the 2nd Precinct and has been a cop nearly two years, serves as a mentor with the Detroit Police Athletic League and Men of Courage, a Detroit nonprofit that focuses on helping young black males.

For his willingness to reach back and mentor young men, George — who grew up on Detroit’s west side near Joy and Livernois — is the recipient of the Angelo B. Henderson Community Commitment Award.

“There was a lot of drug dealing and gangs,” he said. “I went to Northwestern High School, and when you saw the police inside the school, they were usually responding to some gang activity. In that environment, education was not glamorized.”

When he first started working with Detroit middle school students through the PAL program, George said he had to win them over.

“At first, they seemed shocked to see a young, black police officer serving as their mentor,” he said. “That’s why it was so important for them to see: I do care about you. Police officers can be your friend.”

During a session at Murphy Academy on Detroit’s west side, George provided the students with ties and taught them how to tie the Windsor knot.

Learning to tie a tie opens the door to greater things, George told the students.

“When you dress like a professional, look people in the eye and present yourself well, that’s how people will see you,” he said. “You can then have that confidence to go on to do whatever you want to do in life.”

After the kids learned how to tie their ties properly, he had each student shake his hand, look him in the eye and introduce themselves.

Following the session, sixth-grader Khari Reed, 11, said he learns a lot from George, who teaches him “brotherhood.”

“He teaches us how to communicate, instead of yelling and cussing,” Khari said. “And he’s always telling us: ‘No violence.’ ”

Detroit police Capt. John Serda of the 2nd Precinct said he's been impressed with George, both in his duties as a police officer and his work with children.

"He's very dedicated to his job and eager to learn," Serda said. "And his work with youths has really been an asset. These young kids get to see a police officer in a positive light, instead of just someone wearing a uniform."

Working with PAL and Men of Courage isn’t George’s first foray into mentoring young black men. After graduating from Northwestern High School in 2006, George attended Madonna University and in 2010 became the first member of his family to earn a college degree. He worked as an admissions officer when he created Bridging Lost Gaps, a nonprofit that helped young African-Americans attend college.

“In my first group of students, all six graduated,” he said. “I talk to most of them almost every day. One is a Michigan State Police trooper. Another is a Detroit police officer, on the force with me. Another works for the FBI in Detroit, and another one is in the social work field.

“The conversations I have with those young men are inspiring. They tell me, ‘you saved my life,’ or ‘you’re the father figure I wish I grew up with.’ I get a lot of ‘I love you, brother.’ I can’t tell you how rewarding that is.”

Bryant George

Occupation: Detroit police officer

Education: Bachelor’s degree, Madonna University; scheduled to earn Master’s degree from Madonna

Family: Single

Why honored: For being a role model and mentor to young African-American males in Detroit

2018 Michiganians of the Year: Cindy Garcia | Remonia Chapman | Rachael Denhollander | Solomon Kinloch Jr. | Candice Miller | John Rakolta Jr. | Mike Duggan | Doug Stanton | Daniel Little | Aretha Franklin

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