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A G.R.E.A.T. Idea

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By Brittany Bennett, on July 8, 2013

Happy belated Fourth of July!

I spent Tuesday with officers from the Person County Sheriff’s Department. As with my day with EMS, it started out with some excitement as Chief Al Rhew told me that I would be going out with some officers to execute a search warrant. They were happy to hear that I have decent handwriting so that I could help with documentation, but I was a little nervous as I was given a bullet proof vest to wear and warned that I needed to drop down or run if instructed to do so. Luckily, I never had to take heed to such instructions and remained safe and sound for the entire day during a tour of the jail and a ride around the county in a patrol car.

What I was most excited about during my Sheriff’s Department visit was learning about their G.R.E.A.T. summer camps. These camps serve low-income middle school age children in Person County and offer a full week of activities from serious lessons on the juvenile justice system and gang resistance to more fun things like swimming, playing with the K-9s, skating and bowling at Palace Pointe, and a day at Mayo Lake. I talked with School Resource Officer, Sergeant Sheryl Hughes, about the camp and was inspired by her passion for the kids that she works with. As someone who strongly believes in the importance of helping children succeed, I was happy to learn about the G.R.E.A.T. program. From what I hear, the campers love it and many of them come every year that they are able to; some even return as helpers once they have aged out of the camp because they enjoy it so much. Learning about the summer camp after seeing so many young people in the jail made me think about the importance of helping kids through programs like the G.R.E.A.T. summer camps find positive outlets during their free time. It is especially important for those who need the extra guidance to be shown constructive avenues because difficult circumstances can often make positive options seem impossible.

I heard a statistic in a meeting recently that the number of beds in jails is decided by the number of children who fail the fourth grade. If that is a real measure, then it is truly important to not only offer summer camps, but to have activities for kids year-round. Having dedicated people like Sergeant Hughes in the schools and more extra-curricular activities could help to decrease the number of people in the county jail. From a public administration perspective, that would solve many problems: there would be less money spent to house, feed, and provide medical care for inmates, and hopefully the result would be a more educated citizenry to participate in the local economy and help communities thrive. Obviously I’m no expert on the subject, but it’s a little food for thought.

I was so excited about the G.R.E.A.T. camp that I asked to visit one day next week. Come back next Friday to hear about that and whatever other adventures I find in Person County!

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