AMS, sheriffs team up for GREAT program

Armstrong Middle School is teaming up with the Starkville Sheriffs Department to help build student self-esteem and respect for law enforcement.
Through the Safe Schools Healthy Students grant with Family-Centered Programs, Sheriff Larnzy Carpenter will bring the G.R.E.A.T. program to the eighth graders at AMS.
The program stands for Gang Resistance Education And Training, and will start under the direction of Sheriff Carpenter when the students return from Christmas break in January.
“Safe Schools Healthy Students’ goal is to build self-esteem, make wise choices and respect law enforcement,” said Dr. Joan Butler, Director of Safe Schools Healthy Students. “It teaches you the skills you need to know to resist gangs and gang pressures... It’s a proactive program in making healthy choices.”
The13-week program will take students through 12 different lesson plans dealing with building self-esteem. Topics to be covered are identifying the term gang, discussing gang awareness, attitude, consequences, being assertive, different ways to say no and deviating from rough situations.
Students will learn that a gang isn’t always what they see on television, but rather, a gang is defined as: A group of people who have a common name and identifying signs, colors or symbols and who participate in criminal activities as a group of individually.
Carpenter cautions students to realize that a crime doesn’t have to be a severe act when defining a gang. A crime is any act that breaks the law, such a defacing public property, petty theft and physical violence.
“Role playing is something we’ll do often in this course,” Carpenter said. “It’s something really important because you can tell a child what to do, but until they get in that situation, they might not know what to do... The point is, a lot of kids can be taken in, and we’re teaching them ways to be assertive and associate themselves with people who are on a good path.”
Youth gangs have played a major role in perpetuating the culture of violence. There are many risk factors for children who are susceptible to gang activity, including aggression, substance abuse, antisocial beliefs, broken homes, high-crime neighborhoods and family poverty.
“If you can teach a child to feel good about themselves, for the most part, they will be able to resist those negative pressures,” Carpenter explained.