1,144 students from 27 educational centers around San Salvador were part of the first graduation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program. The program is funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and is implemented in El Salvador by the Department of Prevention from the National Civilian Police (PNC).
GREAT is part of the cooperation programs of the United States in El Salvador. Through programs like GREAT or other prevention programs such as the Police Athletic Leagues and the youth computing centers of the PNC, children and adolescents have access to different spaces and entertainment and educational activities to keep them away from criminal activities.
The young people participating in the GREAT program are students from primary and secondary schools that received 13 lessons regarding topics such as the reality of gangs and violence, communicating effectively, making good decisions, resolving conflicts, speaking confidently, and ways to treat peers.
“Thanks to the agreement with the Ministry of Education (MINED) we are in the classroom working in the 27 educational centers. INL has made it possible through technical assistance, training of our police officers, accompanying us in the whole process and the logistical support,” said the Head of the Delegation of San Salvador Evelyn Marroquín Prado.
A student from the Lyndon Johnson School and GREAT graduate, Ámbar Hernández expressed her most sincere thanks to the authorities present for having chosen her school to participate in the GREAT program. “More than a project, it’s an opportunity to change. Every word did not fall in deaf ears, but on students who heard and accepted the opportunity to be better. In our school, we avoid bullying, we know how to make decisions and each of us has a golden rule: Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.”
U.S. Ambassador, Jean Elizabeth Manes said these types of efforts are important for the future of El Salvador. “All of us here present want the same thing: to break the cycle of crime and violence that decimates the communities of El Salvador. Preventing children and young people from getting lost in gangs is the commitment that the U.S. government has with El Salvador,” she said.
“We firmly believe in the youth of this country, their abilities and dreams. We are convinced that for the future of El Salvador, these boys and girls need to want something different, something better, for themselves, for their family and community,” she added.
GREAT instructors were certified in 2016 to be able to teach the lessons to young people in high risk communities. At the moment, GREAT has certified more than 300 officials from the San Salvador Delegation and their police headquarters.
The program started with four schoolsin Lourdes, Colón in 2009 and now has expanded almost nationwide and has more than seventythousand participants. The municipalities benefitting from the program are Lourdes, Santa Ana, Ahuachapán, Sonsonate, Usulután, San Martín, San Luis la Herradura de La Paz and San Salvador, municipalities prioritized in El Salvador Seguro Plan.
GREAT is a program that is not only carried out in El Salvador, but also implemented in other countries around the region. This program has almost 30 years of existence and aims to build trust among law enforcement officers and members of the different communities. This program aims to persuade Salvadoran youth not to become involved in crime, youth violence and gangs.