There was no doubt Nicole King's family would be Shout-ing out the dirt stains on her white fleece shirt Thursday night.
Harlem Middle School seventh-graders Meagan Spinks (from left) Catie Hannah and Sasha Holley help clear land for a garden
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Nicole and her classmates were working on an anti-gang program project to beautify Harlem Middle School's courtyard. It was a dirty job, but they seemed happy to do it.
"You should see what we are doing right here," she said excitedly. "We are building a wall where we can plant flowers."
GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) is new to Harlem Middle School and many of the county's other middle schools this year. The Columbia County school system ended its decade-long association with DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) in Columbia County's elementary schools, and shifted this year to gang resistance in middle schools.
GREAT has been a pilot program at Columbia Middle School for the past two years, where it has been taught to seventh-graders once a week for nine weeks. Fully implemented this year, it is being taught to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders through the health curriculum.
GREAT teaches positive attitudes toward law enforcement, and teaches children how to handle conflicts, set goals, resist drugs and avoid gangs and violence. It is funded through the sheriff's office, which has three officers assigned to the programs.
At Harlem Middle School, Deputy Angela Jones was overseeing the beautification project, which she said was initiated by the pupils in the program as a tangible way to prevent gang violence.
"By having a clean environment and having kids take pride in their school, they would be less likely to vandalize the school," she said.
In the courtyard at Harlem Middle, the pupils are weeding, spreading mulch, removing trash and rebuilding fences and a pond. When the preliminary work is done, they'll plant flowers and other plants.
The seventh-graders will work on the project during their GREAT class, which they attend once a week for nine weeks.
"It helps clean up the environment, to make our school a better place so people will want to be out here more," said pupil Kambrey Flournoy. "People will notice that we have cleaned up the area, so why would they want to make it a mess? It's a lot of work. It's going to be a nice place to hang out."
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