PONTIAC (WWJ) – Being recruited by a gang is a real threat to even elementary school-age kids in metro Detroit.

That’s according to behavior interventionist Gwen Cheney, who visited with Pontiac fourth-graders on Thursday as part of GREAT, the Michigan State Police Gang Resistance Education and Training program.

“It’s difficult right now for them, even as they walk back and forth to school, as they’re riding the buses to school,” Cheney told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Beth Fisher. “They’re always being approached by people who have negative intentions.”

Michigan State Police Trooper Mark Keller led Thursday’s program at Alcott Elementary.

“Teaching them: How do you deal with your emotions? What do you do when you’re upset, you know? How do you know when you’re being upset, and how could you stop that? As well as decision-making,” Keller said.

Xavier Ford, age 10, explained some of what he learned: “Be safe, no fighting, no cussing … no screaming at the teacher.”

Lt. Mike Shaw said they’re sharing an important message, best delivered ASAP.

“We’re doing a lot of raids; we’re doing a lot of things in Detroit and in Pontiac, and in Saginaw and Flint,” said Shaw, “but one of the best ways is to educate our children earlier.”

Shaw says look for future programs in Pontiac and Detroit, aiming  to help kids like 10-year-old Selena Frederick stay on a positive path.

“To be a kid … just to have fun and learn,” said Selana, one of about 50 young Pontiac students who were the first to graduate from GREAT.

Another, 11-year-old Maya Brooks, said she plans to steer clear of trouble as she grows. “I don’t like gangs … When I get older I wanna be someone I’d rather be.”



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