The Salt Lake Area Gang Project’s 2017 Utah Gang Conference featured a special award for Granite safe school specialist Maria Garcia.
Garcia oversees Granite’s Choose Gang Free and Skills for Success programs that are currently operating in multiple schools throughout the district. In recognition of her service in helping students choose a gang-free life, she was honored with the Kevin Crane Commitment to Community Award.
“Maria has proven to be a great advocate students,” said Clay Pearce, associate director of Prevention & Student Placement. “She shows a deep commitment to helping students who are at risk of gang involvement, poverty, and academic failure.”
The Choose Gang Free curriculum for grades 4-6 was launched early in the 2016-17 school year in collaboration with Unified Police and Salt Lake Area Gang Project. The program engages students in learning about the consequences of gang membership and empowering them to control their own choices.
The use of hands-on activities, such as a Choose Gang Free version of the block game ‘Jenga,’ allows students to consider the realities of a topic that is typically not openly discussed in the classroom.
“They enjoy understanding the instability of gangs, and how there are many alternatives that will help them build a stable and successful life,” Garcia said.
The Choose Gang Free culture quickly spread through classrooms at the 11 schools that participated in the ten-week program. More schools are expected to participate in the coming year.