120 Sacaton Middle School students graduate from G.R.E.A.T. program
March 3, 2017
Thomas R. Throssell
Gila River Indian News
Over the past thirteen weeks, Sacaton Middle School (SMS) students learned the importance of making responsible decisions in difficult circumstances and how to navigate the pitfalls of drugs, gangs, and violence through the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program taught by Gila River Police Department School Resource Officers.
On Feb. 23, middle school students of the fifth, sixth, and seventh grades, making up around 120 pupils in total, celebrated their graduation from the program in the school’s gymnasium and were treated to slices of cake and pizza.
GRPD SRO James Milano, who taught the program at SMS, said the program is all about teaching youth how to make the right choices in difficult situations.
“The program focuses on making good choices and not letting people dissuade you,” he said. “When you do make good choices, you have the world open to you.”
He added that even though the students have completed the 13-week program, they will continue to use the knowledge they learned to create a better school campus.
“The idea is that now, they are going to try to improve the school,” said Milano. “Report if you see bullying, if you see somebody that is doing gang behavior, try to talk them out of it, if not, tell an adult,” he said.
Also in attendance at the SMS G.R.E.A.T. graduation were GRPD Sgt. Manuel, who congratulated the students on their accomplishment, and GRPD Officer Esther Poolaw, who helped hand out generous portions of cake and slices of cheese pizza.
The graduation’s special guest speaker was USMC veteran Roland Enos, who congratulated the students on finishing the program. He told students that receiving an education was an effective way to improve one’s life.
Enos said in his own life experience, he learned that taking chances, learning new skills, and even leaving home for better opportunities, were all important steps towards a happier life.
“Enjoy your life,” said Enos. “Yes, there will be bumps in the road, but learn from them and move forward.”
G.R.E.A.T. is a gang and violence prevention program used to teach children to stay away from violence, gangs, and delinquency, all-the-while building trust between law enforcement officers and the community. The program is taught at four schools in the Community, Sacaton Middle School, Sacaton Elementary School, Gila Crossing Community School, and Blackwater Community School.
The program was created by the Phoenix Police Department in April of 1991 and due to its effectiveness was adopted nationally when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency helped expand the program throughout the United States.