“The only thing I know is [the] church”

James King picks up trash from a strip of grass between the street and sidewalk on North 12th Street, an idle mower behind him. King, who grew up near 29th Street and Courtland Avenue, has always walked his own path, sought to define life by his own standards.

“My father instilled in me … he always said, ‘James, no matter what you do, you be the best. I don’t care what it is, you be the best. If you be a drug dealer, you be the best drug dealer; If you be a doctor, you be the best doctor … If you gonna be a fool, you make damn sure you be the best damn fool,’” he says.

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“I wanna learn how to do everything on my own”

Shauratina Velez waits at the corner of 12th and Atkinson with her four-year-old daughter for the Route 19 bus. Velez, 22, was 17 and a junior at North Division High School when her daughter was born, and it’s been a tough road ever since.

“I don’t have any help, I don’t have nobody to show me the way — you know what I’m sayin’? I don’t have nobody to teach me … I had to learn [more from sources other than] my family to know how to make a resume, how to talk to people. I’m still learnin’ to this day — I’m teachin’ myself.”

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“It’s a big world”

David Cisney lounges on the stone steps of his home in Arlington Heights. He’s resting, taking a break from raking the yard. On this Saturday afternoon he’s getting some work done around the house because it’s the only day he doesn’t have a church-related activity planned.

You won’t often find David sitting still. “I’ve lived a good life,” he says. “You know, when you live in the city, there’s always stuff to do and I can’t understand why the young people today have so many problems.”

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