The city’s school district intends to implement an anti-gang and anti-violence curriculum dubbed the Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program in four elementary schools. School board members approved the program’s adoption in four schools earlier in the month: School 6 on Carroll Street, Napier Academy on Clinton Street, School 10 on Mercer Street, and School 21 on 10th Avenue.
Funded by the New Jersey Parole Board via the Bureau of Justice Assistance within the United States Department of Justice, the program intends to persuade youngsters to avoid joining street gangs by highlighting the darker aspects of gang life. Sean Van Leuven, a state parole board officer, provided a presentation to education officials during the summer, outlining the benefits of the program.
Leuven said the program is similar to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) initiative, but it is evidenced based and proven to work. A study conducted by the University of Missouri validates Leuven’s assertions.
Students will be taught by parole board officers, who have extensive experience tracking gangs and their members. The program, which runs for six weeks for 4th and 5th grade students and 12 weeks for 7th and 8th grade students, also has a violence prevention element embedded in its curriculum.
The program which is slated to begin this school year, 2014-15, is to run for two years as conditioned by the parole board. The initiative is being rolled out in schools that are less than ten blocks away from gang controlled territories in the 1st and 4th Wards. School 6 in the 4th Ward for example sits surrounded by two blocks of Bloods street gang controlled territory on Governor Street between Rosa Parks Boulevard and Summer Street; and another two blocks on Rosa Parks Boulevard between Hamilton and 12th Avenues, according to information released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Napier Academy in the 1st Ward sits less than seven blocks away from a long stretch of Bloods street gang controlled area of North Main Street. Education officials are hoping the program will succeeded in inoculating impressionable youngsters from falling prey to the scourge of street gangs.