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School Desk Blog: G.R.E.A.T. Helps Students Make Better Decisions at Ukiah Unified School District

There are many challenges in the education field. If you read this column on a regular basis you have a good idea about what some of these challenges are, and importantly, how we all work together to solve them. Working together is important if we want to move forward. One of the most serious issues that we face today in our community and at school is keeping our kids away from the pitfalls of violence, bullying, and delinquency.

We are doing everything we can to help students make healthy life choices so they all have a chance to become successful, contributing citizens. To assist us in our efforts, we are participating in a program started by the Phoenix Police Department in 1991 called Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.). At UUSD we have partnered with the Ukiah Police Department to provide this program that teaches children to deal more effectively with serious issues such as bullying, peer pressure, anger management, and good decision making. The G.R.E.A.T. program features law enforcement personnel teaching life skills to students, and since its inception, has been one of the nation’s top violence, delinquency, and bullying prevention programs.  

The program provides a variety of components for students and their families including classes covering subjects like conflict resolution, and anger management. Each class lasts around 45 minutes and students are encouraged to interact, ask questions, and share their own experiences and lessons they have learned. Respect is a common theme taught in all of the classes, and each student is urged to identify adults they can trust and turn to for help at home, school, and in the community. All students are urged to volunteer and to get involved in positive activities at school and in the community.

The goal is to increase every students’ bond to their school; research has shown that how connected a child feels to his or her school is one of the most important factors that help students make good decisions and resist turning to violence. Having the G.R.E.A.T. program here in our community helps us build positive relationships between law enforcement and our students. We are teaching our children to deal more effectively with serious issues affecting their behavior and our community.

More than 13,000 sworn officers from around the United States and the world have been trained and certified to teach G.R.E.A.T. classes. UUSD School Resource Officer Isabel Madrigal was trained last year in Tempe, AZ, and is heading up our efforts at UUSD. She is assisted by fellow UUSD School Resource Officer Tony DeLapo and Mendocino County Probation Officers Martin Perez and Michael Gaspar. Thanks to their hard work, we are currently teaching 17 classes at our elementary and middle schools each week. So far this year, G.R.E.A.T. has reached an impressive 889 students at Ukiah Unified School District.

I believe the G.R.E.A.T. curriculum has made a difference in our efforts to combat violence and delinquency in our schools. We all need to work together, so we urge parents to communicate often with your students about what’s going on at school and stay involved. Look for sudden changes in your child’s behavior that might be warning signs of violence or bullying like a sudden withdrawal from friends, a decline in grades, abruptly quitting of sports or clubs, and sleep, eating or behavioral issues.

If you want to find out more about the G.R.E.A.T. program or if you want to observe one of the classes, contact Officer Madrigal at 707-467-5721 or at imadrigal@cityofukiah.com.