ALBANY, N.Y. (October 22, 2009)
-- The City School District of Albany and the Albany Police Department
have launched a new gang-education program for middle school students,
the latest initiative in a broad community partnership aimed at
expanding services for children and families.
The Gang Resistance Education and
Training program (GREAT) began this month at North Albany Academy,
Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School and William S. Hackett
Middle School. School resource officers from the police department
will teach the 13-week program.
GREAT is a component of the four-year,
$6 million Safe Schools-Healthy Students federal grant the district
received in 2008 in partnership with a coalition of public and
private agencies covering mental health, juvenile justice, substance
abuse, youth development, early childhood education, family advocacy
and higher education. Interim Superintendent Raymond Colucciello,
Ed.D., was joined by the following Safe Schools-Healthy Students
partners for a news conference to announce the programs Oct. 21:
Albany Mayor Gerald D. Jennings
Albany County Executive Michael G.
University at Albany School of
Social Welfare Dean Katharine Briar-Lawson, Ph.D.
Parsons Child and Family Center
Chief Executive Officer Raymond Schimmer
Families Together in New York State
Inc. Executive Director Paige Pierce
“The GREAT program is a shining example
of the resources available to children and families in our community
through the Safe Schools-Healthy Students partnership,” Dr.
Colucciello said. “This cooperative effort symbolizes the spirit of
partnership that exists in our community as we join together to
improve our schools and our city by improving the lives of our
children and families.”
Prevention is GREAT’s main objective.
GREAT educates students about youth violence and gang membership to
help them make positive choices and avoid destructive behaviors.
Lessons focus on life skills that will help students solve problems
without violence. GREAT encourages positive relationships with
parents, schools, law enforcement and the community.
“The GREAT program provides the
necessary tools needed to teach our young children life-building
skills that will hopefully steer them away from youth violence and
gangs,” Mayor Jennings said. “The skills that will be taught will
give them the chance to succeed despite all of the peer pressure
they face in adolescence. It is my sincere hope that everyone in the
community embraces this valuable program.”
Albany police school resource officers
Evelyn Blackwell, Willie Hughes and Gordie McLean attended GREAT
training in Philadelphia last summer. They will teach the curriculum
in sixth-grade health classes at North Albany, Hackett and Myers.
The Safe Schools-Healthy Students grant
is being implemented locally through the Albany Partnership for
Learning and Uniting Services, or A-PLUS. In addition to the school
district, the coalition of public and private agencies includes the
Department of Children, Youth and Families
System of Care
City of Albany
Department of Youth and Workforce Services
Safe and Substance Free Schools
Together of Albany County
and Family Center
Albany School of Social Welfare
The overarching goal of A-PLUS is to improve academic outcomes by
reorganizing and expanding school and community services offered to
children and families so that students in Albany may learn, live and
prosper in safe and supportive environments.
“We are happy to be a
partner in the Safe Schools-Healthy Students initiative,” Count
Executive Breslin said. “This collaboration brings together many
services and support systems to address the needs of all children and
their families holistically. Educated and informed children are much
more likely to succeed in school and ultimately in life.”
The centerpiece of the
A-PLUS program has been the establishment of full-service community
resource centers at Albany High School and North Albany, duplicating
models that have been successful in other district schools. The
full-service model allows children and families to access social,
emotional and mental support services.
components include substance-abuse prevention programs, a strengthened
Truancy Abatement Program, the creation of a Youth Leadership Council
and a parent-engagement program. Expected outcomes include decreased
fighting in schools, fewer suspensions, less juvenile crime, better
school attendance, expanded youth leadership activities, improved parent
involvement, less-frequent substance use, stronger social and
problem-solving skills, increased access to mental-health services and
expanded early childhood screening.
“The A-PLUS initiative
is responsive to the challenges that are faced by our students and
families, our schools and our city,” said Leslie Jimpson, the district's
A-PLUS coordinator. “It identifies and fills gaps in services and is
designed to positively impact entire schools while at the same time
offer intensive services for students and families who face special
The mission of the City School District of
Albany is to educate and nurture all students to be
responsible citizens, critical thinkers and lifelong learners to
successfully compete in the global community by providing an
academically rigorous and safe environment in partnership with parents,
students and the community. The district
serves approximately 8,400 students in 16
elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood
schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as
well as other innovative academic opportunities for students.