Gangs present a unique challenge to today's youths. Many of these youths face significant peer pressure to make a decision on whether or not to join a gang. Recognizing this can be an issue in any community, the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice has partnered with the Gang Resistance Education and Training program in multiple communities across the state to bring the curriculum to local elementary and middle school youth.
In support of that effort, DJJ employees are providing the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum in 12 counties: Newberry, Beaufort, Colleton, Union, York, Richland, Anderson, Greenville, Lexington, Darlington, Hampton and Williamsburg. Since the program began this past summer, the curriculum has been offered at 14 elementary and six middle schools and a Boys and Girls Club, serving 771 third- through eighth-grade students in 28 classes.
Given the tremendous success of the first round of G.R.E.A.T. programming, DJJ is expanding the initiative and recently 10 DJJ employees, along with 16 other law enforcement professionals from North and South Carolina and Georgia, attended a 60-hour G.R.E.A.T. training program hosted by the Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
The intensive instruction conducted over eight days prepared the attendees to become G.R.E.A.T. instructors in their respective communities.
In attendance from DJJ were Lewis Grant from Allendale County, Sophia Henderson from Colleton County, Brandi Patterson and Gena Roton from Newberry County and, from Orangeburg County, Rhonda Holman, Denzel Johnson, Sean Kane, Christy Patterson, Henry Taylor and Bridgette Zimmerman. Their graduation at the end of the training session brings the total number to 25 DJJ employees who are providing the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum to 14 South Carolina counties.
G.R.E.A.T. is a gang and violence prevention program built around a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom program of study, and is intended to help prevent the involvement of young people in delinquency, violence and gang membership. The G.R.E.A.T. lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems. This is a 13-week, one hour-per-session program that incorporates a summer component and a family training component. Although there are other probation officers teaching the curriculum throughout the country, DJJ is unique in seeking to launch G.R.E.A.T. classes on a statewide basis.
According to Brett M. Macgargle, associate deputy director for DJJ's Office of Planning and Programs, whose area oversees the initiative, the newly trained G.R.E.A.T. instructors volunteered their time and talent to further expand the proven prevention program into more schools and communities.
"Our goal is to be in every county in the state, and this recent training is one more step towards saving children from the perils of gang life and other at-risk behaviors," Macgargle said.
Lesa Timmerman, DJJ deputy director for the Community Services Division, congratulated the graduates and thanked them for their efforts.
"I appreciate their efforts and commitment to this training and its contents. This is a tremendous prevention/early intervention tool for DJJ, and I look forward to hearing of their many successes," Timmerman said.