For Immediate Release
Graduation Celebration: Empowering Youth Through the G.R.E.A.T. Program
CHICAGO — Special Agent in Charge Christopher Amon of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Chicago Field Division announced today the graduation of over 120 participating Bradley West Elementary students who successfully completed the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program. The graduation celebrates the development amongst the students of essential life skills and positive relationships between law enforcement and local community youth.
The G.R.E.A.T. Youth and Community Outreach program was launched by The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in 1991 to proactively combat violent crime in coordination with local law enforcement. G.R.E.AT. uses community-oriented policing tactics and outreach in a weekly classroom setting to increase positive perceptions about law enforcement, one student at a time.
In Bradley West Elementary, the G.R.E.A.T. program instructors, ATF Special Agent Cindy Bernd and Bradley Police Officer Matt Baxter, have focused on helping eliminate delinquency, youth violence and gang membership over a period of four months teaching weekly.
“ATF nationally and in close collaboration with our local law enforcement partners, in this case the Bradley Police Department, have been serving as G.R.E.A.T. instructors for over three decades,” said Special Agent in Charge Amon. “Watching our youth who participate in this program implement their newly developed skills is rewarding for not only for the community, but the local law enforcement as well.”
“We are very excited about welcoming back the Gang Resistance Education Training program (G.R.E.A.T.) to our school system," remarked Chief Donald Barber of the Bradley Police Department. "Officer Baxter along with Agent Cindy Bernd and the support of the ATF organization are a great fit. Not only does it build on our already sound foundations within the elementary school district, but we are a firm believer that the more we increase the active participation and partnerships with our youth, the more we increase the value of our community.”
The G.R.E.A.T. curriculum includes violence prevention, conflict resolution techniques, decision-making, goal setting and problem-solving. The elementary school curriculum is a six-week interactive session for fourth and fifth graders with an emphasis on family involvement. Students are taught how to set goals, resist peer pressure, respect differences, resolve conflicts and understand how gangs can negatively impact their quality of life. They also learn the importance of becoming responsible members of their communities.
This training is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make local neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in local communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities and measuring the results.