GES students first to graduate G.R.E.A.T. in the district

Kevin Boozer Staff Writer

January 9, 2014

Kevin Boozer

Staff Writer

RIDGEWAY — Fifth grade students at Geiger Elementary in Ridgeway had a great way to close out their fall semester, with graduation from the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) Program.

Sgt. Steve McDonald and Cpl. Rick Gibson team taught the G.R.E.A.T. class, the first time it was available at Geiger.

“This is a new program for Fairfield County,” McDonald said. He thanked Superintendent J.R. Green, Mr. David Corely, the district safety and security director, Rick Wessinger with the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Principal Myra Bramlett for being receptive to the program.


With a goal of being proactive and preventative, DJJ provided the G.R.E.A.T. opportunity at no cost to Fairfield County and also provided course material at no charge.

For six to 10 weeks school resource officers visit classrooms and address topics ranging from bullying to anger management.

McDonald said the fifth graders were a sharp group who made him proud with their attentiveness and the questions they asked. The youth applied knowledge creatively with Mrs. Charnell Hemphill’s fifth grade class performing a skit on anger management.

Gibson said he hoped the fifth graders internalized the lessons portrayed in their skit. Learning to read body language and how to interpret someone having a bad day was another key concept. He asked the young people to continue to achieve, learn and apply the tools and strategies they were taught in the G.R.E.A.T. program.

He said the role playing helped the youth learn ways to behave better and to prevent violence. He reminded them to identify adults they could talk to and trust and he thanked the parents in attendance for the graduation ceremony for their support of the G.R.E.A.T. and D.A.R.E. programs.

The G.R.E.A.T. lessons provide life skills to help students avoid delinquency or turning to violence when they are faced with problems.

Gibson reminded the youth to count to ten, talk it out, walk away. Take a deep breath. Stay cool amidst a stressful environment and be sure to communicate clearly. Gibson said Facebook and Instagram can be misinterpreted and an unclear message could lead to conflict, something his officers hopes to help young people avoid.

The youth also took a great citizen pledge to be productive citizens, to respect one another and to treat others as they would like to be treated.

Sixth grade students at Geiger Elementary in Ridgeway graduated in December from the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) Program. For six to 10 weeks School Resource Officers visited classrooms weekly to teach, counsel and provide programming to give students tools to help them avoid pitfalls of drugs, gangs, and violence. D.A.R.E. relies upon advisory committees and youth advisory boards to review material and keep content fresh and relevant to the life experiences these young people may face.

Fairfield County Sheriff Herman Young urged the young people to remember what they have been taught because, he said, once you get into trouble, you cannot get out. Please walk that straight line.

Green was excited about the D.A.R.E. and G.R.E.A.T graduates. He reminded the students life was about choices, right and wrong, and that choices have consequences. “Be sure you don’t look back with regrets. The right choice may be hard, but it is still the right choice,” Green said.

Principal Bramlett agreed and said that she remembered as she grew up it was not always popular to make difficult choices and to something right. She said she made the choice to stand by herself at times and that choice paid off for her in the end because she did what was right—the very thing she wants her students to go and do likewise.

The D.A.R.E. Program is in 75 percent of United States school districts and in over 43 countries.It’s mission is to teach students good decision-making skills to help them lead safe and healthy lives.

Contact staff writer Kevin Boozer at kboozer@civitasmedia.com or 635-4016 ext. 14.