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Lawrence Elementary School sixth-grade students graduate ‘GREAT’

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Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 11:49 am

This morning, I had the privilege of doing something great. I mean that in several ways. Today, the sixth grade students of Lawrence Elementary participated in their Gang Resistance Education and Training graduation.

The GREAT program teaches students important tools to help make decisions to bring about positive consequences in their lives. Lodi Police Officers Ryan Holz and Jim Pendergast have spent nearly an hour each week for the last 13 weeks on the Lawrence Elementary campus forming special relationships while teaching students how to manage emotions, have community pride and the refusal skills necessary to avoid gangs and criminal activity.

“These officers get to know students well. We know that there will be upcoming tough choices. You have been given tools to use in decision making that will help you make the best choices.” Lodi Chief of Police Mark Helms told the students.

Lodi-Tokay Rotary Club President Wally Sandelin encouraged sixth grade students to tell and mentor others about the valuable lessons they have learned, especially those who were unable to participate in the GREAT program.

Evidence proves that the program has positive effects in promoting more positive attitudes toward police and their presence in classrooms, less positive attitudes about gangs, more use of refusal skills, higher collective efficacy, less use of hitting neutralizations, less anger, lower rates of gang membership, higher rates of altruism and less risk-seeking (

The Lodi-Tokay Rotary Club notes these facts and have made it a priority to sponsor and help provide the necessary resources to keep this program running at Lawrence Elementary.

Holding up a lit flashlight, principal Carlos Villafana explained the power of a small tool in darkness.

“In the dark, it helps you get around. The GREAT program is about helping you get around. You have that tool. A tool to accomplish great  things because of choices. A lot of people care and believe in you. I believe all of you have potential to do great things.” principal Carlos Villafana explained.

Parents, administrators, teachers, community leaders and police officers applauded the graduates while Officer Holz let them know that he might not be on campus weekly, but he will always be just a phone call away.




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