Flower Hill Primary School fourth graders recently completed a six week program sponsored by the Suffolk Sheriff’s office. 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. Officer Julious Nelson worked with Flower Hill’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.
New Suffolk Sheriff Errol Toulon
came to Flower Hill Primary School.
New Suffolk Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr., Captain Charles L’Hommedieu and Deputy Sheriff Andrea Villani joined Officer Nelson, Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky and Flower Hill Principal Lucia Laguarda at the graduation ceremony in the school cafeteria on Thursday.
Mr. Toulon spoke with students and as their parents and teachers looked on. The youngsters completing the program were presented with certificates and posed for commemorative photos with the assorted dignitaries attending the event.
The Suffolk Sheriff’s office has extensively utilized the GREAT program in county schools. 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.
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 at Flower Hill 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.” Flower Hill’s fourth graders said they plan on striving to do just that.