Jefferson Primary School fourth graders recently completed a six week program sponsored by Suffolk Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco. The initiative included sessions devoted to bullying, youth crime, violence, drug use and gang involvement while developing a positive relationship between the students and law enforcement professionals.
The GREAT (Gang Resistant Education and Training) program is funded through a federal grant. Officers Everett Oliver and Julious Nelson worked with Jefferson School’s fourth grade classes for 40 minutes each week, delivering specially designed lessons and coordinating activities contained in a 32 page handbook given to each student.
Mr. DeMarco has been a steadfast advocate of the GREAT program. The first Suffolk officer was trained to teach the curriculum in 2006 and the program was formally launched in the county the following year. Since then more officers have been trained and a unit has been created for those who teach the program part-time in addition to their other professional responsibilities.
Jefferson GREAT program grads
received badges and certificates.
“At Jefferson Primary School we take a proactive and preventative approach to bullying and peer pressure,” Principal Valerie Capitulo-Saide said. “The students learned how to effectively handle situations in which students may be bullied or pressured to do something they do not want to do. I am particularly proud of our Jefferson fourth graders for their active participation in the GREAT program. We expect to see many benefits from our students as a result of this initiative.
According to the Suffolk Sheriff’s website, prevention is the primary objective of the GREAT initiative. “The program is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence and gang membership,” states the website.
Practical lessons were presented each week along with activities that included role-plays. Among the lessons were ones addressing bullies on a bus, helping new students assimilate into a school, making good decisions, being a good citizen, effective communication, acceptance of differences, body language, use of words and tone of voice, “staying cool when the heat is on,” acting instead of reacting, losing control, “anger alert,” standing up for the “right” thing and many others.
GREAT program lessons are centered on providing life skills to students to help them “avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems and make better choices in life,” according to the Suffolk Sheriff’s website.
The recently completed program challenged the youngsters to “choose to be GREAT.” Jefferson fourth graders said they are ready, willing and able to try and do just that.