Pupils stitch a GREAT thank-you

Kar­en Naughton ac­cepts a quilt that LaB­rum stu­dents made in trib­ute to her late hus­band, Sgt. Steph­en Naughton. TOM WAR­ING / TIMES PHOTO


The Gang Res­ist­ance Edu­ca­tion and Train­ing pro­gram de­b­uted na­tion­ally in 1992, and po­lice Sgt. Steph­en Naughton brought it to Phil­adelphia the fol­low­ing year.

Since a suc­cess­ful pi­lot pro­gram in Phoenix, GREAT has been in classrooms in all 50 states, Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and oth­er na­tions.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials teach the pro­gram in ele­ment­ary and middle schools. Stu­dents are en­cour­aged to ig­nore peer pres­sure and avoid de­lin­quent be­ha­vi­or, youth vi­ol­ence and gang mem­ber­ship.

Among the schools that re­cently wel­comed the GREAT pro­gram is Gen. J. Harry LaB­rum Middle School, at 10800 Haw­ley Road in the Far North­east.

A Naughton prot&ea­cute;g&ea­cute;, po­lice of­ficer Gerri Do­herty, spent 13 weeks with the LaB­rum sixth-graders. In ap­pre­ci­ation, the stu­dents wanted to do something to hon­or the memory of Naughton, a mar­ried fath­er of two who died last year.

The kids in Rooms 601 and 602 cre­ated a cloth quilt for Kar­en Naughton, his wid­ow. Each stu­dent de­signed a square, and they were tied to­geth­er with rib­bons.

Many of the squares fea­tured pic­tures of the ser­geant, in­clud­ing a wed­ding photo in a heart. There were also squares that dis­played his badge num­ber, a po­lice patrol car, an an­gel, stu­dent sig­na­tures and the mes­sages, “You are Our Hero” and “In Lov­ing Memory of Sgt. Steph­en Naughton.”

The young­sters re­cently presen­ted Kar­en Naughton with the quilt.

“The quilt is beau­ti­ful,” she said. “I’ve got a place for it over my sofa in the fam­ily room.”

Naughton, 55, a 31-year po­lice vet­er­an from An­dorra, died last May when he had a heart at­tack while driv­ing on Kelly Drive. The vehicle plunged in­to the Schuylkill River, and Naughton drowned, des­pite res­cue at­tempts by sev­er­al cit­izens.

“His com­pas­sion and his ded­ic­a­tion is liv­ing on in you,” Mrs. Naughton told the chil­dren.

Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey was un­able to at­tend the Feb. 8 ce­re­mony, as sched­uled, but the de­part­ment was rep­res­en­ted by In­spect­or John Heath, com­mand­er of the North­east Po­lice Di­vi­sion, and Capt. Den­nis Galla­gh­er, com­mand­er of the com­munity re­la­tions unit, which over­sees GREAT.

“Steve spent an un­be­liev­able amount of time trav­el­ing. It was a ded­ic­a­tion. It was something he loved to do,” said Galla­gh­er, who worked with Naughton for about a dec­ade.

Stu­dents Prin­cess El­lis, Sam­antha Naphys, Kay­la Clegg and James Rut­ter were presen­ted with medals for win­ning a GREAT es­say con­test. Kali Ro­gers, Jas­mine Scott and Jas­mine Mar­tinez sung, while Mar­ilynn Johns, Jam­ie O’Con­nor, Vic­tor­ia Chi­ma and Ren­ee Samarco danced.

“It was a won­der­ful trib­ute to my hus­band,” said Kar­en Naughton, who was joined by her hus­band’s sis­ter, Teresa.

Naughton said her hus­band was com­mit­ted to GREAT.

“It meant the world to him,” she said. “He really ded­ic­ated a lot of time to it. He brought it to Phil­adelphia and traveled around the coun­try pro­mot­ing it to oth­er de­part­ments. I think he was the longest-serving per­son in the GREAT pro­gram.”

In­deed, ac­cord­ing to a trib­ute on the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s Web site home page, Naughton was the longest-serving mem­ber of the GREAT Na­tion­al Train­ing Com­mit­tee. He was the ad­min­is­trat­or for a re­gion that stretched from Vir­gin­ia to Maine.

“The GREAT pro­gram was his second fam­ily,” said po­lice of­ficer Stephanie Velazquez, of the com­munity re­la­tions unit. “He did a phe­nom­en­al job of bring­ing the GREAT pro­gram here.”

GREAT seeks to im­prove a young per­son’s de­cision-mak­ing, an­ger man­age­ment and con­flict res­ol­u­tion skills.

Do­herty spent 45 minutes each Wed­nes­day with the LaB­rum kids. The cur­riculum is a mix of lec­tures, a les­son book and a video.

“We sit down and ex­plain that there is a link between drugs, vi­ol­ence and crime that can af­fect their fu­ture,” Do­herty said.

Do­herty cred­ited teach­ers Jam­ie Helver­son and Bri­an Marr, prin­cip­al Bill Griffin, as­sist­ant prin­cip­al An­drea Miller and the Home and School As­so­ci­ation with wel­com­ing the pro­gram.

“We got a lot of sup­port from the teach­ers and staff,” she said.

The stu­dents, who cre­ated a second quilt for the school lobby, all re­ceived cer­ti­fic­ates and munched on good­ies. Their par­ents were on hand to cheer their ef­forts.

Do­herty has moved on to teach a six-week course to ele­ment­ary school stu­dents at Kennedy Crossan in Burholme, St. Mat­thew in May­fair and Thomas Fin­letter in Ol­ney. ••

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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