S.T.A.N.D. course gives students new resources to stay out of gangs
San Jose is creating new programs to reach at-risk students before they choose the gang lifestyle. The newest prevention program is Striving for Achievement with a New Direction, better known to students as S.T.A.N.D.
Initially formulated as a pilot program in the form of a support group for young girls directly involved in gangs or with family members involved in gangs, the program has now blossomed into a co-ed course with curriculum designed to give students the education and confidence to stay away from the gang lifestyle.
Students are given the resources to address social and family problems before they grow to negatively affect their future.
“What really makes this program unique is that it really gets the kids before there is a problem,” says District 1 Councilman Pete Constant. “It gives them the education and tools they need to make the right decisions.”
The program, with an 80 percent success rate, is similar to other classes on campus. The course is not mandatory, and most students enroll on their own; others are referred by principals or faculty members.
Two 15-member groups, separated by gender, meet over a 10-week period on campus during school hours. A trained staff, not employed by the school, opens the group with an introduction, an activity and a sharing exercise.
Each week students have a theme that guides them to create short- and long-term goals as well as fostering relationships with their peers in a healthy manner.
Students and moderators bring up issues to discuss, among them fights, disciplinary issues or problems at home. According to Petra Riguero, acting community coordinator for S.T.A.N.D., the program allows at-risk students to make a connection on campus, instead of turning to the gang lifestyle for comfort.
“They tend to realize they are not the only ones going through this; there are others going through the situation, and they are not alone,” Riguero said. “It tends to change how students treat each other. That alone changes the whole campus environment.”
Riguero also believes that by addressing social and home problems, students can focus on schoolwork. She has witnessed a positive change in grades with S.T.A.N.D. students.
First-priority schools are those evaluated as “high risk” schools or those with active or potential gang activity.
The program is offered at Monroe Middle School, but has not reached every San Jose middle and high school due to a lack of funding. The program is offered at eight middle schools and two high schools including John Muir Middle, Sylvandale Junior High, Yerba Buena High and Oak Grove High schools.
Next year the program will rotate through schools and community centers in an effort to reach more students. Constant is hoping the course will make its way to Starbird Youth Center at Boynton Avenue and Williams Road, where gang activity has come and gone.
“If we are going to make a difference, now is the time we need to get in there and stop the gang trend from going up,” Constant said.
The program is offered through Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, but is funded by and works closely with the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force and Safe Schools Initiative.