The G.R.E.A.T. Program

The Suffolk County Sheriff's Office recognized the need for a proactive approach in gang prevention here in Suffolk County and discovered the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program which was being provided in many states throughout the nation. The G.R.E.A.T. program slogan is "No Violence is GREAT". The program is a classroom curriculum provided to elementary and middle school studentThe GREAT Program (Gang Resistance Education) s which is taught by law enforcement officers with specialized training in teaching the lesson plans.

With prevention as its primary objective, the program aims to prevent bullying, youth crime, violence, drug use, and gang involvement while developing a positive relationship among law enforcement, families, and young people to create safer communities. G.R.E.A.T. lessons focus on providing life skills to students to help them avoid using delinquent behavior and violence to solve problems, and make positive choices in life.

In 2006 Sheriff DeMarco had the first Officer trained to teach the G.R.E.A.T. program in Suffolk County. The Sheriff launched the program in January of 2007 when he partnered with the South Country School District for a pilot program at the Bellport Middle School. The thirteen week middle school component at Bellport concluded in the spring of 2007 with 350 student graduates. In March of 2007, the Sheriff's Office sent three more Officers to G.R.E.A.T. training and created a unit of Officers who would teach the program part-time in addition to their other duties. Since its' inception, thousands of students have participated in the successful initiative.

There are four components to the G.R.E.A.T. program which include a 13 session middle school curriculum, a 6 session elementary school curriculum, a summer program and families training.
The G.R.E.A.T. program is made possible by funding from the following partners the U.S. Department of Justice - Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

G.R.E.A.T. Middle School Component

The G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum is a skills-based curriculum designed to produce knowledge and attitudinal and behavioral changes through the use of facilitative teaching, positive behavior rehearsal, cooperative and interactive learning techniques, and extended teacher activities.

The curriculum has integrated National Learning English Language Arts Standards and National Health Standards and is based on effective research practices.


To prevent youth crime, violence, and gang involvement while developing a positive relationship among law enforcement, families, and our young people to create safer communities.

Program Structure:

The G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum was designed for middle school entry-level students in 6th or 7th grade. Taught in the classroom by specially trained, uniformed law enforcement officers, G.R.E.A.T.'s violence prevention curriculum is a life-skills competency program designed to provide students with the skills they need to avoid gang pressure and youth violence. The curriculum can be used in conjunction with other prevention programs encouraging positive relationships among the community, parents, schools, and law enforcement.
The G.R.E.A.T program

The Lessons:

The G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum consists of thirteen 30- to 45-minute lessons designed to be taught in sequential order.

  • Relationship Among Gangs, Violence, Drugs, and Crime
  • What's the Real Deal? Message Analysis
  • Facts and Fiction About Gangs and Violence
  • It's About Us Community; Roles and Responsibilities; What You Can Do About Gangs
  • Where Do We Go From Here? Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals
  • Decisions, Decisions, Decisions:  The G.R.E.A.T. Decision-Making Model
  • The Impact of Decisions on Goals
  • The Decision-Making Practice
  • Do You Hear What I Am Saying? Effective Communication
  • Verbal vs. Nonverbal
  • Walk in Someone Else's Shoes:  Active Listening 
  • Identification of Different Emotions
  • Empathy for Others
  • Say It Like You Mean It: Body Language
  • Tone of Voice
  • Refusal-Skills Practice
  • Getting Along Without Going Along: Influences and Peer Pressure
  • Refusal-Skills Practice
  • Keeping Your Cool: G.R.E.A.T. Anger-Management Tips
  • Practice Cooling Off
  • Keeping It Together:  Recognizing Anger in Others
  • Tips for Calming Others
  • Working It Out:  Consequences for Fighting
  • G.R.E.A.T. Tips for Conflict Resolution:  Conflict Resolution Practice
  • Where to Go for Help
  • Looking Back: Program Review
  • "Making My School a G.R.E.A.T. Place" Project Review


The G.R.E.A.T. Elementary School Component

The G.R.E.A.T. elementary curriculum is a skills-based curriculum designed as a precursor to the middle school curriculum. This component establishes the foundation that prepares children for the intensified content and cooperation exercises taught in the middle school curriculum, while developing a positive bond between law enforcement and youth. Reaching children at an earlier stage of development allows for a better transition into the middle school curriculum. The elementary curriculum has integrated National Learning English Language Arts Standards and National Health Standards and is based on effective research practices.


The goal is to prevent violence while developing a positive bond between law enforcement and youth during their early developmental years. The curriculum can be used in conjunction with and reinforcement of other prevention programs and as a precursor to the G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum.

Program Structure:

The G.R.E.A.T. elementary curriculum was designed for fourth and fifth grade students. Children who have aggressive behavior in the elementary school years are more likely to display antisocial and violent behavior as adolescents and young adults. By providing prevention programs to students in elementary and middle school, it is believed that such programs have a better chance of affecting the developmental course of the problem behavior.

The Lessons:

The G.R.E.A.T. elementary curriculum consists of six 30- to 45-minute lessons designed to be taught in sequence. Each lesson is accompanied by a parent letter that the student takes home explaining the lesson and encouraging parent/student interaction.

  • G.R.E.A.T. Beginnings
  • Program Introduction
  • Ground Rules
  • Bullying, Victim, and Bystander
  • To Do or Not to Do
  • Decisions and Outcomes
  • Identifying Adults When We Need Help
  • Loud and Clear
  • Clear Messages
  • Practicing Different Ways of Communicating
  • Staying Cool When the Heat Is On
  • Identifying When We Feel Anger
  • Practicing Controlling Anger
  • We're All in This Together
  • Similarities and Differences
  • Respecting Others
  • Golden Rule
  • G.R.E.A.T. Days Ahead
  • Program Review
  • Being a G.R.E.A.T. Citizen
  • G.R.E.A.T. Promise


G.R.E.A.T. Summer Component

The G.R.E.A.T. summer program builds on the school-based curriculum by offering students an opportunity to enhance their social skills, giving them alternatives to gang involvement, and adding structure to the summer months. Interested students are asked to enroll and need a parent or guardian's signature on a Membership Agreement and Accident Waiver Form. The Agreement includes a list of rules that each student must agree to follow. Although the summer program is most beneficial when used as reinforcement for students that have received the G.R.E.A.T. middle school curriculum, students may be selected from other programs or direct from the community.


The goal is to provide students with positive activities to relieve the boredom over the summer months and increase their opportunities for social, cognitive, and interpersonal growth.

Program Structure:

Although each summer program may vary in length of time or other organizational elements, all programs should involve students in a variety of educational and recreational activities. Instruction in the G.R.E.A.T. core concepts, field trips, recreational and sporting events, and Awana Games activities are a part of an effective G.R.E.A.T. summer program. The program can help form positive community partnerships in the public and private sectors through a variety of community service projects.
The G.R.E.A.T. summer program provides each agency with the flexibility to address its particular issues and concerns within the context of lessons, field trips, or presentations to the students. The program should be consistent in helping the students develop life or career skills.
Examples of Summer Program Activities:

G.R.E.A.T. Lessons:


    • Self-Image
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Juvenile Law and Procedures
    • Cultural Awareness/Sensitivity
    • Career Exploration
    • Communication Skills
    • Safety Education
    • Strengthening program


G.R.E.A.T. Families Component

G.R.E.A.T. Families is a research-based, family-strengthening program consisting of two components: a six-session family curriculum and a family/community resource guide for G.R.E.A.T. facilitators. The G.R.E.A.T. Families curriculum uses group interaction, activities, and skills practice to engage parents and children ages 10 to 14 in order to foster positive family functioning. Each session is facilitated under the guidance of a specially trained G.R.E.A.T. Families lead facilitator. This lead facilitator works closely with two other co facilitators to guide as many as ten (10) families (approximately 30 family members) through a variety of activities and discussion. Child care may be made available, by the sponsoring agency, for younger children of participating families.
By linking a universal family curriculum to specialized family assistance resources, G.R.E.A.T. Families provides G.R.E.A.T. officers with the basic tools needed to work effectively with families and family service agencies.


Strengthening communities by strengthening families through engaging parents and youth in cooperative lessons designed to facilitate better communication among family members and enhance family decision-making skills.

Program Structure:

The curriculum consists of six sessions, covering a wide range of issues facing today's families. Families are encouraged to attend all six sessions. Each session is designed to encourage positive behaviors and interactions and promote healthy family development. The session topics are listed below.

    • Introduction to G.R.E.A.T. Families
    • Overview of G.R.E.A.T.
    • Family Needs Assessment
    • Truth and Myths about Gangs
    • The Role of Families in Healthy Communities
    • G.R.E.A.T. Communication
    • Communications Assessment
    • Overcoming Communication Barriers
    • Practice Listening Skills
    • G.R.E.A.T. Family Skills
    • Benefits of Having Clear, Constant Rules and Limits
    • Benefits of Parental Monitoring
    • Effective Discipline
    • G.R.E.A.T. Role Models
    • Applying Personal Values
    • Common Personal Dilemmas
    • Consistent Expectations and Actions
    • G.R.E.A.T. Family Relationships
    • Family Time Assessment
    • Family Priorities
    • Family Action Plan
    • Families in the Electronic Age
    • Influences: TV and Movies
    • Influences: Video Games
    • Internet Safety for Families


The G.R.E.A.T. Families Community Resource Guide

The feature that distinguishes G.R.E.A.T. Families from most other family-strengthening interventions is its community resource guide. As a "universal" program open to all families, G.R.E.A.T. Families should be viewed as a positive first step for participating families. The curriculum component covers life skills that can benefit any family. Some families, however, may need or want to participate in additional programs or activities designed to maintain or continue building a healthy family environment. Meeting the ongoing needs of families poses many challenges for G.R.E.A.T. officers and their agencies, which are committed to supporting positive family development in their communities. The community resource guide serves to help the G.R.E.A.T. officers better meet the needs of the families enrolled in the program and provides valuable information in response to questions, such as those listed below.

• What alternative programs are available in the community to strengthen families?
• Are there other resources—whether written, video-based, or on the Internet—that can be trusted to provide useful information or insight into ways to foster healthy family development?
• Where can current, valid research on family issues be found?
• How can a G.R.E.A.T. Families facilitator become more knowledgeable about other sources of program and funding support?



G.R.E.A.T. Families provides yet another enhancement to the community policing efforts of G.R.E.A.T. agencies nationwide. By working more closely with families to promote safe and healthy communities, G.R.E.A.T. is taking a significant step in its efforts to help our nation's youth lead healthy, violence-free lives.