Over five hundred students graduated from the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, which was held this morning at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. The Commissioner of Police, Allen Whylie, in his address spoke about the mission of the GREAT program.
ALLEN WHYLIE, Commissioner of Police
“Preventing young people from joining gangs in the first place is crucial to realizing a significant and lasting reduction in youth gang activity. As serious as this problem is, it is not beyond our ability to prevent our youths from venturing down the path of crime and violence. In order to do so, they need to know how to make good decisions that will be beneficial to them in their future. These are life decisions which do not occur frequently but can have huge consequences often they determine the path their lives will take to come, and often those decisions are irreversible. The GREAT program which is a community-wide life skills program that combats youth involvement in gang-related behaviors allows for police officers and children the opportunity to interact with each other in a more positive way.”
Love News also spoke with Inspector Elroy Carcamo who told us that the students, who are graduated from the GREAT program, are from nine primary schools and one high school. Carcamo shared how the students have benefitted from the program.
Inspector Elroy Carcamo – GREAT Focal Point
“These children have participated in the elementary component which is six sessions and the middle school session which is thirteen sessions. It is one session per week and what happened is that each session leads up to the other and its teaching the children the myths and facts about gangs, what is a community, how to make decisions and set goals and how to deal with conflicts and how to have empathy for one another. It also teaches them about bullying and about bystanders are and what they are supposed to do when they see bullying occur or when they are being bullied. The schools and teachers have spoken highly of the program and they have seen differences with the students and the way they act and the behavior within the school; they feel more open to go inform a teacher when certain things are happening to them.”
John Burke and Samantha Alamilla spoke to Love News about what they learnt as a result of participating in the program.
John Burke – Student of St. Luke Primary School
“Gangs are bad things, they lead to death or jail. Don’t follow what you see people do. If someone tells you to pick up a gun and go shoot someone to not to follow.”
Samantha Alamilla – Student of St. Luke Primary School
“That gangs are a bad influence towards you and that there are different ways to refuse it and you should not really follow their path and go your own way and do the right thing.”
The students are taught about the dangers of gangs by the police who visit their schools.