OJJDP’s Gang Resistance Education And Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program has been helping to increase trust between law enforcement and communities for 30 years. The program, which is offered through a school‐based curriculum taught by law enforcement officers, provides life skills to at-risk students to help them avoid delinquent and violent behavior. The program’s success stems from the positive relationships instructors cultivate with the youth and families they serve.
In November 2020, 20 law enforcement officers and 2 federal prosecutors from 8 states completed a week-long, in-person training in Memphis, TN, and are now certified as G.R.E.A.T. instructors. This is the first time federal prosecutors have been certified as instructors. Program instructors typically are employed by police and sheriff’s departments, although some state police agencies, district attorney’s offices and juvenile justice departments, and federal agencies also participate in the program.
The two prosecutors—Criminal Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Boswell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Musselwhite—work for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in western Tennessee. “Having Assistant U.S. Attorneys as certified instructors of the G.R.E.A.T. program is an important part of our efforts to proactively prevent future criminal behavior and gang membership,” said D. Michael Dunavant, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. “We are proud of Beth and Jennifer for their commitment, achievement, and ground-breaking work in this important initiative, and I am confident that their leadership in the G.R.E.A.T. program will promote positive relationships between law enforcement and the community, help young people avoid delinquent behavior and bad decisions, and ultimately improve public safety in West Tennessee.”
Certification of G.R.E.A.T instructors is rigorous, requiring 10 hours of online preliminary training and 36 hours of classroom training. Much of the training is aimed at preparing the instructors to teach fourth through eighth graders in a classroom setting. The curriculum is designed to help youth foster positive attitudes toward law enforcement, avoid conflict, resist peer pressure, and develop a strong sense of personal responsibility.
Since the program’s inception in 1991, more than 13,000 law enforcement officers have been certified as G.R.E.A.T. instructors and more than 6 million students have graduated from the program.
Additional information about the G.R.E.A.T. program is available on its website.
OJJDP’s National Gang Center offers information, training, and customized technical assistance to help communities address their unique gang problems. The center offers an array of resources, including the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model—a proven framework for coordinated action that helps communities prevent youth from joining gangs and reduce street gang violence and crime.
A National Gang Center blog post highlights the potential for the G.R.E.A.T. program to transform the lives of youth.