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While some teens in her Marietta housing project were cruising for drugs or kicks, Jazma Parker would be driving slowly through some rich neighborhood, marveling at the way those people lived.

She was among the young people in Lyman Homes who did their homework, who stayed off the troubled corners. She liked watching TV cop shows like “Law and Order” and “CSI,” and she dreamed of becoming an investigator.

In a few weeks, Jazma expects her dream will start coming true, as she begins a job screening the backgrounds of prospective employees for a company that works with a federal personnel agency. It’s not the FBI, but it’s a start.

“I did it,” Jazma said. “I felt I made it out.”

The AJC has chronicled Jazma’s life for more than a decade. She always has seemed more mature than her age, having lived a lot of life for her years. Even as an adolescent, she had serious brown eyes. Her voice was strong, her opinions hardened by what she had seen.

When she was 13, the AJC wrote about her and her sister being adopted by her grandmother, Willie Mae Parker. Jazma’s mother had drug problems and run-ins with the law.

When she was 17, the newspaper featured her in a front-page story called “Jazma’s Dream,” in which she said she did not want to be the third generation of her family to live in a housing project. At the time, she was a junior at Marietta High School and volunteering at the Marietta Police Department, mostly doing clerical work. But her endearing personality and bold assertiveness took her further. She also learned some fingerprinting and investigative skills.

She looked for role models beyond Lyman Homes, a place where officials barricaded streets to stop the drive-through drug trade. A security consultant once described the 125-unit complex as “an open-air drug market as bad as anything … seen in New Orleans, Chicago or Los Angeles.”

It was a place, Jazma recalled, where she learned to “think on my own.” When she saw friends turn to low temptations, she thought of her mother, and what that life provided, and took away.

Jazma, now 24, is quick to credit her mentors for her success, including former Marietta police Chief Bobby Moody and Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs. Grubbs gave her a $2,000 scholarship, one of many she received upon graduating from high school. The newspaper was there then, too.

Grubbs said it has been a pleasure helping Jazma because she is so willing to help herself.

“She’s a survivor,” Grubbs said. “Even though she gets knocked down by life, she picks herself up and says, ‘What do I do now?’ ”

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