This year’s mischievous and rude little boys and girls often grow up, if they survive, into disillusioned and desperate young men and women.
For the past four years it has instituted a program called GREAT, for Gang Resistance Education and Training, that addresses the often difficult family life and personal issues affecting today’s youth, from as young as Standard I.
Today the Belize City cohort of three schools – Buttonwood Bay Nazarene, Trinity Methodist and Muslim Community Primary – graduated 145 students from the program. So is GREAT living up to its acronym.
We present three views: one from a police officer working with the program, another from a Ministry of Education official, and finally a young student.
We begin with P.C. Morris Martinez, working with Community Policing in the Caribbean Shores area. He describes the program as it was taught to the students.
“Well, kids are participating in life skills courses. We taught them about gangs, about conflict resolution and gang management, just to name a few of the skills that they learned during the weeks that they participated in Gang Resistance Education and Training. Students from Nazarene, Trinity Methodist and Muslim Community College learned these skills for over a period of 13 weeks We taught them these skills with the courtesy of the US Embassy”.
Reporter: “So, are these kids not all necessarily from gang afflicted areas?”
P.C. Morris Martinez: “No, not all are from gang affected areas, but we try to teach the skills to all the students because not only kids in gang affected areas are affected by gangs”.
The CARSI program managed by the local American embassy funds training for police officers who work with the students and there are plans to expand the program to work with families.
The Ministry of Education’s Dale Anthony told us that marked changes can be seen in the program’s participants, leading in turn to the downturn in crime and gang activity.
“We have seen students that have never ever, ever want to do anything with police officers. First of all, when they see them, they would have that negative attitude and at the end of the sessions these same students be students who would cry. When the program finish or when they would have a little eating and police officers would like to say goodbye because you will see changes and referring back to the officers getting feedbacks from them, they would also tell you that their point of number of changes. The majority would not 100%, but 90%- 96% have accepted the program and thus far to me, it is working and it is going well”.
What of the students like Parker Chub, a Standard 4 student from Buttonwood Bay Nazarene who participated? He told us why the program truly lives up to its name.
“I think it is a great program thatte police started because they teach you about gangs and about how it is on one’s meaning and in gang management”.
Reporter: “Did you used to give trouble?”
Parker Chub: “Yes, sir”.
Reporter: “How has this program’s participation changed you…’you know what? I need fuh change that'”.
Parker Chub: “They taught me how to change and how to behave, sir”.