Gang Resistance Education and Training (G. R. E. A. T) is a national program that educates elementary and middle school children how to avoid becoming a gang member. The program is instructed by police officers and is part classroom instruction and other learning activities. “The goal of the GREAT program is to teach youth how to set goals for themselves, how to resist peer pressure, how to resolve conflicts, and how gangs can affect the quality of their lives. (Ramsey, Rust, & Sobel, 2003) The program also teaches the youth personal empowerment, among other things, that prevent them from getting into any gang activity. Originally the program was based off a nine lesson middle-school curriculum.
The beginning of the G. R. E. A. T. program started in early 1992 in Arizona. The program was so successful that in 1993 it ballooned across the nation and was supported by congress as a part of the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearm’s project outreach. G. R. E. A. T. became one of the primary prevention programs. In 1995, the G. R. E. A. T. Program underwent a comprehensive five-year longitudinal evaluation and study by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in conjunction with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to measure the impact of the program. ” (Board, 2011) The report showed that those involved in the program had “lower rates of victimization, more negative views about gangs, more favorable attitudes toward law enforcement, reduced risk-seeking behaviors, and increased association with peers involved in prosocial activities. (Board, 2011)
In 2000 the program underwent a curriculum review as a result of this review the program revised their core curriculum and used a random field trial where classrooms were randomly assigned to be control and test groups. The field test spanned thirty-one schools among seven cities and about four thousand students. The results showed that after one year, students from the test group had lower gang membership as compared to the control group. This was due to the lessons that the program was teaching the students.
The lessons that G. E. A. T. mainly focused on provided life skills to student in order to make it possible for them to avoid violence and delinquent behavior. The program consists of thirteen, one hour sessions. The program is also facilitated by a summer program combined with a family training component. The main focus of this program was to keep the youth out of the criminal justice system. One of the benefits of the program was that the youth detention centers received less youth offenders arriving at their facility.
This benefit is a result of educating the youth about gangs. Reactions to the term, gang, elicits a mixed response due to the media, music, movies, and personal experience. The questions that remain regarding the recruitment of gang membership are: why is the number of gang members raising when the information is out there about the violent and destructive behavior of the gangs? The other aspect that should be asked is why do prospective members overlook the violence that is required of them during a gang war with rival gangs.
These questions can be answered by looking at how the gangs recruit. The success of the gang’s recruitment can also be their undoing. The success of a crime prevention program is higher when they are led by the students or peers. This is also how the gangs recruit, using the prospective members peer group to recruit them to join the gang. The prevention programs are shown to help the community by making the school safer, which ultimately gives the students an advantage in improving their chances to be successful and a contributing member of society.
These programs also increase the social bonds like the ones seen in control theories and social learning. Recruiting gang members is a problem in America but this is only the start of the problem. One of the main problems identified in cities across the United States as it’s progressed to the twenty-first century is gang violence. A person can see a link between the individual’s interaction and the social learning theories with regards to gangs. This is why the goals of G. R. E. A. T. are to stop gang involvement, violence, and prevent youth crime.
They do this by providing a pathway to develop relationships with their family, other young people, and most importantly law enforcement officials in order to create a safer environment for the youth. In order to make a bigger impact, the program is taught in two different school levels. The G. R. E. A. T. program is taught to the youth starting in elementary and continuing until middle school. The elementary program and middle school program are both skill based learning. The elementary program is designed as an introduction course to the middle school program.
The elementary program sets the foundation that begins to teach the youth skills that are needed for the more intensive program that is taught in middle school. All of this is done while they develop the bond between the youth and law enforcement officials. These bonds continue to develop once the students move onto the middle school program. The curriculum of the middle school program is more in depth in an attempt to cement the good behaviors of the students. This is done by enhancing their knowledge of their actions and consequences. These courses are taught to the sixth and seventh grade students.
They are based on scenarios in order to show the student how to avoid engaging in violent behavior. At the middle school level the youth should have a good foundation based on the elements of the program. This program would not be possible or successful without the devoted teachers. The classes are taught by specially trained law enforcement officials. These instructors learn how to teach the key skills that they will give the students. These skills help the youth to avoid joining gangs and refrain from getting in trouble with law enforcement.
The G. R. E. A. T. rograms success is based on the fact that the officers that are associated with the program still commit time to the youth of the program the semester immediately following the training sessions. The G. R. E. A. T. program requires an enormous amount of obligation from the law enforcement officers. The officer’s commitment begins with a one or two week training program. This training requires the officer to prep heavily for the training out of the classroom environment. In order for the officers to receive their training certificate they much attend all the classroom sessions.
The classroom portion of the training requires the officer’s to perform both informal and formal presentations to the class. The officers are also required to maintain standards, failure to maintain these standards are grounds for dismissal from the program. Another requirement of the officer is that their records and work history most be clear of any type of disciplinary incidents. The program is fairly successful, but there are concerns. The concerns about the program are that the youth by the time they are in the program have already been exposed to a lot of the activities that the program teaches to avoid.
However, the ones that teach the program feel this is an invaluable program because any action to prevent criminal activity is worth it. This is a valued point, but only if they can get to the youth before they are completely corrupted. It is hard to break a habit that has been part of your life for a long time. That is why the earlier the youth is when entering into the program, the better the chances for change. “The impact of the intervention must obviously be measured when the delinquent behavior usually appears, that is, no earlier than preadolescence.
Clearly, we must expect interventions that aim to change the course of human development will have long-term effects. ” (Esbensen, Osgood, Taylor, Peterson, & Freng, 2001) During the program the youth learn that influences in and out of school cause them to do things that are not socially acceptable. It is at this moment when the officers know they can reach the youth and effect change. The program ultimately teaches the youth their good and bad behaviors, giving them an opportunity to identify their behavior and become productive members of their society.
The younger youth are oblivious to the fact that their peers are convincing them to commit criminal acts. For this reason, the lessons taught in the elementary program is beneficial to prevent the manipulation of the youth. The youth are exposed to multiple topics that give them the needed skills to resist gang recruitment. The sessions are designed to be interactive which give the youth an opportunity to learn and practice good behaviors that will assist them throughout their lives.
Both the elementary and middle school program share the same key aspects. One of the aspects of the G. R. E. A. T. rogram is the teaching of life skills which is what the main structure of the program is based on. “G. R. E. A. T. instruction focuses on providing life skills to students to help them avoid delinquent behavior and resorting to violence to solve problems. ” (What is G. R. E. A. T.? , 2012) This program is designed to prevent youth violence, delinquency, and gang membership. These skills are important to be taught before the youth hits the desired age for the gangs to recruit and to prevent delinquency. The program also benefits communities that do not have gang problems by preventing youth violence and delinquency.
The program attempts to stop the bad behavior of the youth by reaching them at an early stage of development. The earlier the interaction with the youth, the easier the transition is going to the middle school program. There are four components to the program which are taught in thirteen sessions. The components are the elementary program, middle school program, summer program, and family training.
The elementary and middle school component are both integrated with National English language arts standards and national health education standing and is based on effective research practices. (Elementary School – G. R. E. A. T. Program – Gang Resistance Education And Training, 2012) (Middle School – G. R. E. A. T. Program – Gang Resistance Education And Training & , 2012) The elementary program is intended for fourth and fifth grade students. This program gives the elementary and middle school students a better chance in preventing behavioral problems. Its success has ballooned over the years making it a national treasure as well as spreading outside of the United States.
“Since the G. R. E. A. T. Program went nationwide in 1992, many law enforcement agencies and schools from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U. S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Canada, Central America, England, and military bases in Japan and Germany have implemented the program. ” (Organization – G. R. E. A. T. Program – Gang Resistance Education And Training, 2012) The program is now being taught by the dedicated law enforcement officers in over 500 communities across the nation. The continued success of the program depends on the programs ability to maintain its “strong organizational structure to regulate decisions and program or curricula changes. ” (Organization – G. R. E. A. T. Program – Gang Resistance Education And Training, 2012) Since the program started in 1991, thousands of students have graduated from the program.
G. R. E. A. T. has achieved great and expected positive results. “The evaluation survey was first administered to youths when they were in 7th grade and re-administered annually through 11th grade. Results show that G. R. E. A. T. was able to successfully change several risk factors (e. g. , peer group associations and attitudes about gangs, law enforcement, and risk-seeking behaviors) associated with delinquency and gang membership. (Esbensen, 2004) The reason for the success of this program is the dedication of the program to elicit the change of the students. They do this by teaching the youth the social skills that lead them into feeling confident enough to be able to refuse to participate in their previous delinquent behaviors and become a contributing member of society. The continued success of the program relies on many things. The future of the program depends on the commitment of the law enforcement officials who run it.
If the pattern continues since the inception of the program, the program will continue to gain steam and grow stronger. The changes that should be implemented to the program are small tweaks, but would improve its success. The first change that should be implemented is the program should start the youth in the program at a younger age. This would ensure that the youth would gain skills to avoid the gangs before they experience any gang activities. This would ultimately ensure the youths success in gaining the skills to refuse the gangs advances and delinquent behaviors.
Other aspects of the program should include ride along programs, jail or prison visits, and make the youth more active in the middle school program. Gaining these aspects will give the youth the feel of responsibility as well as teach them where continuation of their actions could lead them eventually if they do not change their ways. The results from the program show that the students that have gone through the program have shown a more optimistic feeling about law enforcement officials.
The kids that are enrolled in the G. R. E. A. T program develop an understanding that make the gangs less a desirable life and give them skills to reject gang membership. The youth that are enrolled in the program have shown a resistance to the pressures from their peers and are less likely to act out with violence. The youth also find a way to disassociate with the peers that originally led them to begin their delinquent behavior. The youth find themselves exerting less anger and those that graduate from the program have low affiliation to gangs. The G. R. E. A. T. program is very successful at helping youth resist gangs.
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