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AISD Combats Gang Violence With Prevention Program

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:08 PM CDT

School is not out for summer yet, but sixth grade students at Gorzychi Middle School are having a special graduation ceremony.

Their diploma is for Austin Independent School District's GREAT program, which stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training.

Many of the students said it was a great accomplishment and good experience to go through the program.

Heather Wolle said she learned valuable life lessons for the future.

"We learned about drugs, violence and gangs," Wolle said. "We learned refusal skills and how to set goals."

Throughout the program each student had to create a community project. Wolle's was to help fellow students fight back against bullying.

"My project idea was to get old shoe boxes and decorate them," Wolle said. "We would put them all over the school so people could put a note inside if they were getting bullied or if they knew about anything bad."

AISD Police said the program targets younger students who are at the highest risk or most vulnerable to being recruited by a gang.

Detective Lance Cox with AISD's Joint Juvenile Gang Intervention Unit said the program teaches responsibility and helps students take pride in their community.

"We talk to them about decisions and outcomes. We go over anger management," Cox said. "The 5th grade age range, 10-11 years old, is the most impressionable."

There are about 88,000 AISD students, and Detective Cox said of those 600 are documented juvenile gang members.

"We see more problems outside of the school involving juveniles where the restrictions are far less," Cox said.

The Austin Police Department said in 2012 there were 2,525 gang involved incidents, and 18 percent of those crimes involved members under the age of 19.

"As they grow hopefully they can rely on the lessons that we taught them," Cox said.

By Cassie GalloAISD Combats Gang Violence With Prevention Program

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