Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) is a school-based program designed to prevent youth violence and delinquency–in particular, membership in gangs. Trained law enforcement officers provide instruction in public school classrooms. They also work with community youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the National Association of Police Athletic Leagues. Not only does this program help educate young people, but the collaborations forged in its delivery build important community relationships. Since the program it was created 1991, more than 10,000 law enforcement officers have been certified as G.R.E.A.T. instructors and more than 5 million students have graduated from G.R.E.A.T.
The G.R.E.A.T. programs include a 13-session middle school curriculum, an elementary school curriculum, a summer program, and training for families. Lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems. All G.R.E.A.T. instructors are sworn law enforcement officers who receive additional training on the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum at one of four regional training centers.
The G.R.E.A.T. umbrella covers a continuum of components for students and their families. Specifically, the elementary program, which consists of six 30- to 45-minute lessons, focuses on building positive bonds between students and law enforcement. Lessons cover bullying, discussing the role of offenders, victims, and bystanders; ways to communicate; strategies for cooling down when you feel angry; appreciating differences; and identification of adults who can help when needed. This elementary school program is typically implemented in the fourth or fifth grade.
The middle school program is designed for sixth or seventh graders and focuses more specifically on gang prevention. Students learn facts and fiction about gangs and violence and discover what they can do to help. They also discuss verbal and nonverbal communication, empathy, resisting peer pressure, and other social skills.
The G.R.E.A.T. summer program is flexible but is really intended to help reduce the boredom that leads many youth into trouble when they are out of school. Students might take field trips and participate in other outdoor activities or games in addition to receiving information about gangs, violence, and positive conflict resolution.
The family program takes place in six sessions. It is designed to help parents and guardians identify warning signs of youth crime and violence and resist participation in gangs or other deviant or criminal behavior.
The G.R.E.A.T. program was developed in 1991 by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Phoenix Police Department (PPD). It was originally an eight-lesson middle school curriculum, but in early 1992, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) joined the ATF and PPD to expand the program. The first G.R.E.A.T. officer training was held in 1992. By 1998, the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Police Department; the Orange County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office; the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Police Department; and the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau were all providing assistance.
In 1995, a five-year longitudinal evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. program was launched. Results showed that students who completed the training had lower levels of victimization, more negative views about gangs, and more favorable attitudes about police. Researchers also found a reduction in risk-seeking behaviors, and increased association with peers involved in prosocial activities.
G.R.E.A.T. underwent an extensive program and curriculum review in 19992000. The review led to the addition of lessons, from eight to 13, and included more active learning. In 2001, the new curriculum was piloted in 14 cities nationwide and implemented nationally beginning in 2003.
- Esbensen, F., & Osgood, D. (1997). National evaluation of G.R.E.A.T. National Institute ofJustice Research Brief. Retrieved May 4, 2010, from http://www.ncjrs.gov/txtfiles/167264.txt
- Gang Resistance Education and Training: http://www.great-online.org/Default.Aspx