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“Chen” wants to be an ordinary teenager. But not being fluent in English and being small made him a target to be bullied in school. At age 10, Chen found himself in his older brothers’ gang, feeling protected and accepted , and he thought his problems were solved.

Chen enrolled in Emerson High School’s Contract-Based program in late September 2016 as a Junior. Not by choice but because he was “booted out” of the local high school for fighting and gang-related activities. It came as no surprise that Chen was also behind on his credits.

The first day he arrived, he was agitated and defensive. His teacher “Joanne” wanted him to feel relaxed and welcome and gave him a welcome gift bag that Youthnet board of directors put together for all the students. Chen was impressed. Then, the breakthrough moment came...

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