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G.R.E.A.T. program strengthening Tyler families

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TYLER (KYTX) - The G.R.E.A.T. program is offered to families at Douglas Elementary School in Tyler. It stands for Gang-Related Education And Training.

"We're here trying to get families together and to help them to work in bettering their relationships with their kids, and the kids bettering their relationships with their parents."

Probation Officer Juana Mendoza with Smith County Juvenile Services leads the classes, which are taught in English and Spanish.

"It's really important that they're able to talk in their own language and ask questions about crime and their kids and their safety." she says.

And, Officer Mendoza says the parents are already learning valuable information.

"They asked about gangs, local gangs, and how their kids might be exposed to them."

Counselors stress the importance of family time because children enter gangs when they don't feel a sense of belonging anywhere else. While these children may seem young, Douglas school counselor Kandi Tamez says gangs are targeting them at these ages.

"They start trying to recruit in 4th and 5th grade. And, when they get to middle school," she says,  "it's more trying to pull them into the actual groups."

Tamez says the G.R.E.A.T. program is not only a learning experience, it's also a way to bring families together and help them bond with each other.

Laura Rivera brings her two children to the G.R.E.A.T. program.

"I want to guide my kids to do what is right." says Rivera.

Daughter nine-year-old Dania Munoz says she's learned a few things too.

"To listen to my mom." she says.

And, she's happy to attend them to keep her family close.

"Because, my mom, she cares about me."

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