‘GREAT’ kids graduate from police-sponsored program

Learn how this training, held at several outer East Portland schools, helps youngsters grow up to be good community members …

It’s G.R.E.A.T. graduation day, here at Harrison Park School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
April was a month filled with graduations – and celebrations at several elementary schools, including Harrison Park School, as students completed the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) “Gang Resistance Education And Training” (G.R.E.A.T.).

Students who completed the G.R.E.A.T. Program at Harrison Park, Margaret Scott School, and Lincoln Park School, all were invited to a special program at the respective schools. At Harrison Park, the G.R.E.A.T. graduation began promptly at 10:30 a.m. on April 3, when students of three fifth-grade classes filed into the hall and took a seat.

Harrison Park G.R.E.A.T. Program instructors PPB School Resource Officer Dave Thoman and Central Precinct Officer Heather Martley get ready to start passing out T-Shirts

… which the students eagerly accept!

“This is a school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed, classroom curriculum,” PPB School Resource Officer Dave Thoman explained, as the 86 “graduates” found seats in the cafeteria. “The program is intended as an ‘immunization’ against delinquency, youth violence, and gang membership.”

The curriculum, he told East Portland News, the class  is about learning “life skills”.  “These skills are really pertinent for these kids. These are skills like anger management, good decision-making – and, staying away from drugs, alcohol and gangs.

Asked how the G.R.E.A.T. Program helps fulfill the Police Bureau’s mission, Thoman replied, “In addition to the curriculum, a primary piece of it is a chance to build a positive relationship with the students.

G.R.E.A.T. Program instructor Central Precinct Officer Heather Martley, thanks her students.

“And, by being here, in their classroom, it helps demystify the police a little bit,” Thoman said. During the course of the six weeks, they have looked at all of the equipment that I use and asked questions about my job. It’s a chance to break down the barriers.”

About his experience with the students of Harrison Park, Thoman commented, “I’ve had an absolute ball, teaching this great group of students.  We have had so much fun. It’s been great to get to know them.”

The school’s acting principal, Hank Darnell, smiled as he watched this year’s graduates settle down. “Absolutely I see a change in students’ behaviors after taking the class. I think the training shows, in terms of building respect among students.”

The graduation ceremony began with all of the grads being presented an official G.R.E.A.T. Program T-shirt.

Harrison Park fifth-grader Kaila receives a gift from her instructor, Officer Dave Thoman.

The morning’s program was brief, as Thoman, and his teaching partner at the school, Central Precinct Officer Heather Martley, thanked the students for their attention and enthusiasm during the classes.

“I thank you for allowing me into your class,” Martley told the students. “I really appreciate all of you.”

Then, students who had been particularly attentive or had been extra helpful during the classes were called to the front to receive a small gift from their teachers.

Mmmmm! Pizza!  It’s a welcome part of every G.R.E.A.T. Program graduation.

But, it was difficult for the kids to sit still during the program while they watched stacks of pizza boxes being brought in and placed on serving tables. As always, a G.R.E.A.T. Program graduation ends with a pizza party!

“The class was really fun,” a student remarked. “But I really love pizza!  Oh boy!”

Here, he’s passing out G.R.E.A.T. Program T-shirts. But, to learn more about the G.R.E.A.T program, contact Officer Mike Paresa at (503) 823-2186, or e-mail: Mike.Paresa@PortlandOregon.gov.

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Comments are closed.

© 2005-2020 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.