Students in Monett School District's third and sixth grades will be getting a G.R.E.A.T. education this year with Gang Resistant Education and Training courses offered by School Resource Officer Jerrod Jarvis.
"These courses offer examples of communication skills, anti-bullying, positive role models, anger management and other social skills that are not necessarily taught elsewhere," Jarvis said. "This is a highly successful program that is taught throughout the United States and Puerto Rico."
Third grade students will receive a six-week introductory course while sixth grade students will participate in a more intensive 13-week course. Both classes will celebrate the successful completion of the federally funded educational program.
Third grade students participate in six 45-minute lessons that cover a range of topics that includes decision-making and outcomes, respecting others and anger management. A letter is sent home to the students' parents that explains each lesson and urges student/parent interaction and discussion.
"We even have lessons in Spanish for those that absolutely can't read English," Jarvis said. "But most parents of these bi-lingual students insist that their child receive the English version."
Sixth grade students have a presentation due following the 13-week course.
"It can be an individual or group project," Jarvis said. "They can have a bake sale for charities, trash pick up, have a recycling campaign or make donations to Crosslines. It has to be something that benefits the community."
This is the third year that gang resistance training has been taught to Monett students, and Jarvis believes the program is successful in helping students consider the potential consequences of their decisions.
"I don't believe in bad kids," Jarvis said. "I believe kids sometimes make bad decisions.
"We don't have a lot of gang problems in Monett," Jarvis said. "But this program is about so much more than just gang activity. It helps students consider what happens with each decision they make and also teaches them to consider other options before making a decision. This program is really about crime prevention.
"I have had students come back to me and tell me the program has helped change their lives," Jarvis continued. "I know that we aren't going to change every kid, but if I can even help with one, it's worth it."
Jarvis said that working with students has taught him a few things as well.
"I know what artists they are listening to and what video games they're playing," he said. "I understand some of the message the media is feeding these kids. A lot of that stuff can negatively impact our kids. The media drives our kids today, and they are very influenced by what they see and hear."
A portion of the program also deals with long-term goals students set for themselves and how the decisions they make today can have far-reaching effects on their dreams.
Jarvis also hopes to incorporate G.R.E.A.T. Families, a program that works with seven or eight families of at-risk students in the district.
"That takes another three days of training," he explained. "I'm hoping to be able to offer it next year."
That program offers families six sessions on topics relevant to today's social environment, including: implementing clear, consistent rules; discipline; personal values; personal dilemmas; listening skills; and parental monitoring.
"It's similar to the school-based program but is geared toward strengthening families and enhancing family decision-making skills," Jarvis said. "I think it would be a good program to offer."