There are signs and banners all over Fuquay-Varina Middle School that say, “Thanks for making us GREAT!” That praise is directed at five Fuquay-Varina Police Officers that spent the past 13 weeks teaching three-hundred 7th graders the G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum, a violence prevention program specifically directed at teens. The Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) middle school curriculum, taught by specially trained, uniformed law enforcement officers, is a skills-based curriculum designed to produce knowledge and attitudinal and behavioral changes through the use of facilitative teaching, positive behavior rehearsal, cooperative and interactive learning techniques, and extended teacher activities. The curriculum has integrated National English Language Arts Standards and National Health Education Standards and is based on effective research practices.
For more than six year, the FVPD has taught the elementary school level G.R.E.A.T. class, a six-week course, at Lincoln Heights Elementary School. Because of the success of the program, it was expanded to all Fuquay-Varina Elementary schools in 2011. Fuquay-Varina Middle School Principal Mark Holley is thrilled that the course has now been expanded to include middle school which can be formidable years where teens often experience peer pressure, bullying, and the desire to be a part of a group, despite the consequences. At the graduation ceremony held in early May, Holley challenged the students to take their new-found knowledge and apply it in their everyday life at the school as they transition to 8th grade and become leaders of the school. “Lead by setting a G.R.E.A.T. example, and others will follow,” said Principal Holley. Students got a head start on leading by example this spring when they chose to do a service project as part of their training. Students collected more than 1,500 pounds of food for the Fuquay-Varina Emergency Food Bank.
Teaching the G.R.E.A.T. program in all Fuquay-Varina middle and elementary schools requires a significant dedication of resources on the part of the Police Department. Five police officers received 80 hours of G.R.E.A.T training and each officer spends significant time, some of it off the clock, in the classroom interacting with students. In total, more than 700 kids will graduate from the program this year. Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Larry Smith believes the commitment of additional resources, effort and time to the G.R.E.A.T. program is well worth it and he’s very proud that the department has made it a priority. “Adolescence is a crucial time to reach young people and make a difference in their lives and the life of a community. Giving kids the tools and letting them know that they are in control is a critical step to responsible adulthood.”
Instructors for the program include Sergeant Scottie Hinton, Officer Wayne Dauphinais, Officer Allison Pasterick, Corporal Cindy Perna and Corporal Mike McDonald. Hinton believes that the positive interaction between teens and police officers is invaluable. “The bond formed between the officers and students in the classroom is very strong. Kids know they can contact us, now or in the future, if they need help or advice,” said Hinton.