“Have no fear Jalen G. is here, he will keep our school safe!” 

That simple phrase used by teachers and staff at Little City’s ChildBride Center for Education has helped inspire and transform Jalen into the superhero he always wanted to be. Jalen, who first came to Little City when he entered ninth grade, has grown into a role model at the school as he nears his 20th birthday, showing how years of dedication and persistence can help students achieve their goals.

School Therapy and Clinical Coordinator Jessica Kingji said the key to helping him over the years was learning to “speak Jalen,” which also involved appealing to his love of superheroes like Batman. He quickly took to the idea of accepting the responsibility of a hero and it has led to incredible personal growth, and social and life-skill development.

“He takes such pride in it,” Jessica said of people looking to him as the school hero. “If a student escalates, Jalen is able to know what to do to help them calm down. His classmates feel comforted and safe just by being by him. There is such a gentleness to him and he has an almost magical way of drawing you in.” 

As a process-drive, routine-based person, this past year presented many challenges for Jalen and he rose to meet each one. With COVID affecting home visits this past year, Jessica recalled one instance where the residential staff was unsure how to let Jalen know a previously planned home visit would be canceled as abrupt schedule changes led to difficult reactions in the past. 

But while Jalen was disappointed when he heard, he just wanted to know when it could be rescheduled and reacted with the composure that has now come to define him. School principal Phil Siegel said Jalen has also excelled this past year academically, especially in communication skills. Jalen is one of the most verbal students at the school and can oftentimes try to say more than he is able to put into words, which can lead to frustration. 

But techniques such as singing or clapping while speaking have allowed Jalen to put together multiple, full sentences without issue and break through some of the walls that would cause him to repeat phrases in an effort to convey something more. He has also taken a strong interest in computers and has shown so much proficiency that the school plans to introduce him to a program that teaches basic coding through interacting with visual elements.

 “One of the things when it comes to learning language is expanding the base and with his strong interest in computers we can use that to our advantage,” Phil said. “He is learning a language with this completely visual program where he can move blocks to learn a language. It could give him a great job skill.” 

For now, Jalen is happy to be the hero of the school whether it is comforting students who are upset or bringing staff samples of his creations in cooking class. But as he continues to develop skills each and every year, Phil and Jessica know the sky’s the limit for Jalen and he will fly far.