Thursday, May 14, 2009
By SUE WATSON
About 325 sixth graders from county schools were recognized for completing their training in gang resistance.
The graduation exercises were held at the Multi-Purpose Building in Holly Springs, where students gathered by school and listened to encouragement and appreciation from law officers and school officials.
Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and his officers - Cathy Elliott-Brittenum, LaDaryl Odum and Tamara Jeffries - provided the training. The program was begun last year but this year is the first year where graduation exercises were held which included motivational speeches, T-shirts with the G.R.E.A.T. logo, and games and lunch afterward.
Following introductory prayer by Odum and a welcome by Jeffries, Patricia Glass with the sheriff’s office introduced the guest speaker, deputy David Cook.
Cook, who is studying criminal justice at Ole Miss and maintained a 3.87 grade point average this year, is a native son of Potts Camp where he graduated from high school before first attending Northwest Community College. He is a father, husband and a member of First Baptist Church in Potts Camp.
“You see he’s not only in school, he’s doing his job and also married to a beautiful lady, but the love of his life is his 9-year-old daughter,” Glass said.
Cook spoke of pride, education, and family as key ingredients in resisting peer pressure from gang members.
“Each and every one of you here need to be proud of yourself,” he said, calling for applause.
“The G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education And Training) program basically means staying away from gangs and activities that cause violence,” he said. “Innocent people get hurt all the time. That’s why the sheriff teaches you how to be safe and how to avoid violence - the violence in gangs.
“There is no family that is going to ask you to rob and hurt people,” he said. “All of you have a family or guardian. They love you. They want you in school because they love you.”
He urged students to get a good education, to strive for a little better grade in school and to ask school officials for help on school issues.
“The sheriff, the deputies, the officers wouldn’t be doing this if they didn’t care for you,” he said. “Wear your T-shirt proudly.”
He added that gangs recruit new members and ask them to commit crimes so the gang itself is made wealthier.
“They want to make it look like it’s cool, they’ll be your friend, everybody will fear you and they will protect you,” he said. “Once you are in there it’s a whole other ball game.
“Stay in school, get a great education, listen to your parents and guardians.”
Sheriff Dickerson added his encouraging words to those of Cook's.
“It’s been my pleasure to serve y’all in Marshall County and in the State of Mississippi for about 40 years,” he said. “Several years ago after becoming sheriff, we realized prevention is better than the cure for crime. Prevention is not a one-man show. The G.R.E.A.T. program is a great program. I can assure you hear a lot about gang related crime and drugs in the news. It all goes hand-in-hand.”
He urged the class to trust themselves and have confidence in their ability to say no to those who tempt them to get into harms way.
“You will prosper and follow success through your life,” he said. “For those who are weak, there are jails all across the state that could become permanent homes for you.”
Dickerson said as sheriff he has derived the most joy from his job in working with the very young and with the elderly who have given so much to try to make life better for the young.
He assured the sixth graders they are appreciated and cared for by school officials, family members, and law enforcement officials working with the schools.
“You are all special to us,” he said. “Anytime we can help you in any way, we are at your disposal 24 hours a day.”
County School District Superintendent Donald Randolph echoed Dickerson’s remarks.
“We are extremely proud of you. The sheriff and his employees are our partners to help watch over you,” he said.
Randolph praised students for their good looks, wearing their new T-shirts and urged them to remember the principles that are taught in the G.R.E.A.T. program.
“This program prepares you to step out in life,” he said. “It supplies you with long-lasting values you are taught to use for the rest of your life. You will forget some math and science, but this program is going to be long-lasting. You can’t say yes, all the time. Two little letters, no - you will be able to say no to drugs, no to violence, no to things that are not great for you.”
News: (662) 252-4261 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions, comments, corrections: email@example.com
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page