Friday, November 03, 2000

Students form 'gang' to promote peace

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Newport Middle School eighth-grader Justin Radcliff came to researcher Rebecca Schriber at the beginning of the school year and told her he had “a good gang” as opposed to some of the bad gangs at the school.

        That was the beginning of the Action Pack, a group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students now numbering around 25, that works to reduce aggressive behavior in the school.

        The kids meet weekly with Ms. Schriber, who is working at the Middle School Youth Services Office on a COP (community oriented policing) grant through Brighton Center to study aggressive behavior among teen-agers, assess what the school is doing to deal with the problem, and what can be added to prevent youth violence.

        “I wish I could take credit for the things the group has done, but it was the kids all the way,” Ms. Schriber said during Thursday's meeting at the school.

        “They came up with the idea of going to City Com mission Monday to let city officials know that they want to help their community. The kids even came up with the name Action Pack.”

        Sheena Neyman, 13, said the community has given a lot to the youth of Newport, “and we want to give something back. If we can reduce fighting and aggressive behavior in the school, we've done something.”

        Erika Buckingham, a 13- year-old eighth-grader, said the atmosphere at the middle school is better this year.

        “I got into a lot of fights last year, but I've only had one fight this year,” she said. “I think it's because of the Action Pack and trying to avoid the things that start fights.”

        Ms. Schriber, a 1997 University of Kentucky psychology graduate, said the weekly meetings give the teen-agers “a place where they all have common ground, where they can talk to each other about problems that they might not be able to do outside. They carry that out into the school.”

        The focus of the Action Pack is positive peer pressure, attempting to show other students that they don't have to show aggression but can work out their differences.

        Today, the group has a number of large posters hanging on the walls throughout the school promoting their belief in getting along and avoiding trouble.

        “We still have a way to go to make things really better, but we think this is a good start,” Justin Radcliff said.


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