Tammy Mutasa, Rowlett Reporter
400 Coyle Middle School students in Rowlett graduated from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' G.R.E.A.T program, which stands for Gang Resistance Education and Training.
Hundreds of middle school students took a stand against gang and violence in Rowlett with their graduation from a federal program.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Gang Resistance Education and Training program for middle school students helps children say no to behaviors that can lead them into gangs, such as peer pressure, drug use and bullying.
"If we start at an early age and get violence early, we feel like they'll turn out to be more productive adults," ATF Special Agent Robert Champion said.
Four hundred students at Coyle Middle School graduated from the program Friday.
"I learned how to be nice and more kind to others than the way I was," student Kristen Besong said.
"There's a lot of things out there that can mess me up, and I just want to get through life and make sure I don't do that stuff," Luke Jimenez said. "I just want to be a good person."
Jimenez, who has been bullied, said he will pass on what he's learned.
"I'm going to treat them nice," he said. "I'm not going to start anything, get my degree and all that. I'm thinking to the future."
The ATF started the program in 1991 with the Phoenix Police Department.
It has been at Coyle Middle School for three years, graduating 1,200 children. Every day for 13 weeks, the ATF works hands on with students.
"This is the age they can hopefully grow and learn from this and reflect back on this program," said Constance Barron-Lewis, G.R.E.A.T. instructor.
She taught lessons designed for middle school students going through major transitions.
"My goal is, if it teaches one student how to say no, then I'm proud," she said.
The program has graduated 6 million students around the country.