It's G-R-E-A-T

Program teaches kids to resist gangs, develop good skills
Apr. 03, 2013 @ 06:59 AM

A community partnership is bringing local police officers into Chair City classrooms to help educate students on issues such as gangs and social media.
Thomasville Police Department’s Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program recently completed its second year at Thomasville Middle School and Liberty Drive Elementary. TPD and Thomasville City Schools partnered on the program in 2011 to give students the tools they need to live drug-free and avoid joining a gang.
“The police officers can bring a real life perspective better on some of these topics than teachers can because they’re out there on the streets and they see what’s going on,” Liberty Drive Principal Benjie Brown said. “They can bring that into the classroom and really impact the kids. It’s another one of those important parts that going on in our community. It’s a partnership.”
Master Police Officer Cheryl Taylor just finished her first year teaching the program, and found students eager to learn and ready to get involved in the community. GREAT is provided to all sixth and seventh grade students at TMS and every fifth grader at LDE. The program lasts 13 weeks at the middle school and six weeks at Liberty Drive.
GREAT is designed to help middle school students resist gang membership and bullying by developing decision-making skills that positively will impact their lives.
“It’s all about making decisions and how it’s going to affect you in the long run,” said Taylor. “I didn’t see any problems with gangs, just small groups of kids. We want to stop it before it escalates into something more serious.”
In addition to the gang resistance lessons, Taylor said she spoke to fifth graders about the potential dangers of cyberbullying and social media. Taylor found many fifth grade students are active on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and were unaware how information about them could be obtained with little effort. Taylor warns kids not to post too much on the Internet. 
“I showed them how easy it was to find them on a social network,” Taylor said. “I told them to watch the things they say about where they’re going to be later. Some of them were giving constant updates on Twitter. They were listing step-by-step their whole day. We also want to make parents aware of what their children are doing with social media.”
Beginning next school year, Taylor said the GREAT program also will focus on getting parents and family members more involved with their children. 

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.