#ThankATeacherPBC: South Grade Teacher Breaks Cycles, Builds Futures With Mentoring Program

Two people, one a police officerThe Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office recently thanked a Palm Beach County teacher in their own way, honoring a South Grade Elementary School teacher for her efforts with “Breaking the Cycle of Gang Recruitment,” an initiative at South Grade which pairs members of the community and law enforcement with South Grade students to provide mentorship and guidance to keep them away from the influence of gangs.

Rebecca Hinson, the South Grade teacher at South Grade who was instrumental in creating the program, was recently honored by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for her efforts.

Gangs are responsible for 48 percent of violent crime in the United States. Of the 1.4 million gang members in the U.S., 40 percent are under 18 years of age, according to PBSO. Gangs recruit members as young as 10 or 11 years of age. Some students have challenges that make them more at risk for joining a gang.

To help address those challenges, PBSO, South Grade, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Association, local attorney Aileen Josephs, and LEGOLAND Florida banded together to support the initiative.

“My students love these officers. They want to be like them,” Hinson said.

Each year, the school randomly picks 20 South Grade students who they believe would benefit the most from the program. Officers visit the school for one hour each Wednesday for 10 weeks, and help the students build self-propelled Lego cars.

At the end of the program, the students get to race the cars that they built, and the officers also take the students to LEGOLAND Florida. The officers sometimes do home visits and take the students shopping as part of Shop With a Cop.

“I know how important this program is and how it has changed so many lives,” Josephs said. “This program is also a model for ‘best practices’ for community policing, helping to foster positive relations between law enforcement and the community.”