'The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,' or so the saying goes, and that's the kind of influence Ocean County law enforcement officers are hoping to have by teaching an International anti-gang program in area elementary and middle schools.

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The officers are volunteering in four school districts in Ocean County to teach curriculum from the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program, also known as the G.R.E.A.T. program.

According to Prosecutors Office Spokesman Al Della Fave, the G.R.E.A.T. program was introduced to Ocean County through the Lakewood School district in 2010. He says in 2011, members of the Prosecutors Office got involved, giving the program a boost by getting people in other departments interested and recruiting volunteers to train so they could teach students.

Della Fave says volunteers get two-weeks of extensive training to qualify to be instructors for the classroom-based curriculum. He says the program offers a 13 section curricula for Middle School students and a 6 week curricula for Elementary School students.

"It involves setting goals, role playing, getting family members involved, talking through situations in terms of helping children make better decisions, encouraging positive relationships and teaching kids to resolve conflict in non-violent ways."

More importantly, Della Fave says it gives Police Officers a chance to interact in a positive way with kids.

"They realize that they're not just there to throw handcuffs on them. That they're there also to help them. To help them to thrive and succeed."

He says the G.R.E.A.T. program is being taught in four area school districts in Lakewood, Manchester, Barnegat and Toms River and have a number of graduations that will be happening in the next few weeks. In fact, the program will be graduating the entire seventh grade class of the Lakewood Middle School. On Tuesday, April 30th, Fifth Grade students at the Walnut Street School in Toms River will celebrate their successful completion and graduation of the G.R.E.A.T. program.

According to the G.R.E.A.T. program web site, the program is offered in North America, including the United States, Canada, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. It also works in Partnership with Nationally recognized organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Police Athletic League (PAL).

Information about the G.R.E.A.T. program can be found online.