For a community service project, sixth grade students from George Middle School in North Portland painted over graffiti in their neighborhood. Accompanied by police officers, the students walked to a building near their school where vandals had tagged over 400ft of the wall. Some of the tagging is suspected to be gang-related. The students used recycled latex paint, provided by Portland’s Graffiti Abatement Program, to paint over the graffiti.

The students are part of the school’s Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.), a program that aims to reduce gang involvement and to prevent violence. As part of the program, students take courses taught by law enforcement officers. The courses focus on life skills, goal setting, and conflict resolution. Every sixth grader at George Middle School participates in the G.R.E.A.T. program.

Heather Shaw, a Portland police officer and a school resource officer explained to KOIN News that the program benefits students by reducing conflict: “It helps them resolve conflict with each other before it gets out of hand.”

Derrick Shaw, one of the students in G.R.E.A.T. recognized that the program helps the school and the community: “It’s a good program,” he said.  “People think of this school as one of the schools that a lot of bad stuff happens, but we try to make it seem as clean and safe as possible.”

City officials believe that the students’ service project will help create a safer community.

Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.