‘GREAT’ kids awarded, at East Portland elementary school

Find out where, and why, these Wilkes Neighborhood kids were thrown a party by their neighborhood protectors …

Police honor the graduates of their “GREAT” Program at Margaret Scott Elementary School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Just before the Holiday break, on December 21st, two classes – a total of 70 students – attending Margaret Scott Elementary School, at 14700 NE Sacramento Street, were ushered into the gym for a special assembly

Watching the kids file in was Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Central Precinct Officer Amy Bruner-Dehnert. “These have been my students in my GREAT – that stands for ‘Gang Resistance Education And Training’ – classes.”

PPB GREAT Coordinator, Officer Michael Paresa, shows off one of the T-Shirts to be given to graduates of their program. With him is GREAT instructor Officer Amy Bruner-Dehnert.

Although Bruner-Dehnert works from the Central Precinct downtown, she confided, “I’m glad I could be their GREAT instructor – because I live in this outer East Portland neighborhood.”

Teaching the course for about four years now, Bruner-Dehnert told East Portland News that she feels it’s valuable.

“It teaches kids ‘life skills’ that they can use, no matter what situation they’re facing. We help them learn good communication skills, how to make good decisions – what one should consider before making a decision. And also how to act respectfully to their classmates, and adults in their lives.”

With prevention as its primary objective, the program is intended as an immunization against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership. “This outreach, helping kids learn this information at an early age is really important to me,” Bruner-Dehnert smiled.

PPB Lt. Bob Heimbach, who is the GREAT regional administrator for twelve western states, stacks boxes of pizza for the party, as it is about to begin.

Margaret Scott Elementary School Principal Kathy Nickoloff welcomes members of the two graduating GREAT classes to the special assembly.

“One of the benefits for our school and our students is the presence of police officers here every week,” commented Margaret Scott Elementary School Principal Kathy Nickoloff, as the rambunctious youngsters settled down. “This program is one day a week for six weeks.”

Asked if the GREAT program actually makes a difference at the school, Nickoloff responded, “Absolutely.  From what I’ve seen with kids, it helps improve their conversations amongst one other about the things they learn in the program; and it helps them better communicate with adults in all walks of life.”

PPB GREAT Secretary Joann Alminiana, Family Services Officer Gene Gillock, and Lt. Bob Heimbach serve up slices of pizza to the students who have completed the program.

With the students being very young, Nickoloff said she hasn’t directly observe the impact of the GREAT trainings on drug use or joining gangs.

“But, from their overall demeanor, communication, and willingness to talk with each other – and with adults – it’s definitely yes.  We’re glad to have GREAT at our school.”

With enough pizza for “seconds”, students look as if they’re enjoying their GREAT party.

After the kids ate lunch, Officer Bruner-Dehnert reminded the assembly to keep in mind the lessons they learned regarding “respect, making decisions, and the skills we learned here. Always remember what you learned in this class – and, the decisions you’ve made go beyond this class – for the rest of your lives.”

GREAT instructor Officer Amy Bruner-Dehnert congratulates two of the outstanding students in her class.

> To learn more about the PPB GREAT Program, see their official
website: CLICK HERE.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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