At Transition High, teens leave past behind

Dani McClain:

From the corner of N. 27th St. and North Ave., Transition High School looks more like a strip mall than a place where teenagers are turning their lives around.
The Milwaukee public school, which opened in March, is home to students working through challenges beyond the scope of what most traditional high schools can handle. Some have been expelled. Others have served sentences in the House of Correction or a youth facility. Some have been truant for more than a year.
But on a recent day, as they wrapped up online coursework and got ready for an afternoon of off-campus rock climbing, students talked about how safe they felt.
“This is a non-violent place,” said Charles Banster, 16, and a sophomore. “Nobody has problems here.”
Another student, who said he had spent time in a large school on the city’s south side, agreed. The small environment makes him feel like he’s among family.
“I don’t like too many people around me,” said 14-year-old Tim Owens-Rice. “I just feel paranoid.” In the past, that need to define and defend his personal space has led to fights, he said.