Paying it Forward: RAPP Trainees Become Teachers

Sergeant Garth Brooks speaks with a student at Laventille Success Secondary School.

Sergeant Garth Brooks speaks with a student at Laventille Success Secondary School.

A group of Trinidadian professionals completed the second round of PADF’s Resistance and Prevention Program (RAPP) accreditation training at the national police academy in Port of Spain, Trinidad in October 2015. With an average test score of 93 percent, these 23 accredited facilitators work in law enforcement, social work and education. They are now ready to train their peers in a five-day RAPP course on social crime prevention. A project of PADF and the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, RAPP’s custom curriculum tackles active listening skills, conflict resolution, strategies for reducing gang and domestic violence, and the use of evidence-based practices.

Sharon Francis-Gaines, a social work specialist with the Trinidad Ministry of Education, had taken the class before and returned to become accredited to teach it. “This training is exactly what I need,” she says. She’s been in social work for 10 years and is familiar with the crime and delinquency plaguing the schools. “We’re trying to use the techniques we learned in RAPP to create interventions. The strategy is so detailed. It’s easier to map and monitor. It gives the responsibility to different agencies.”

Sharon Francis-Gaines (right) works with a group to create an action plan at RAPP accreditation training in October 2015.

Sharon Francis-Gaines (right) works with a group to create an action plan at RAPP accreditation training in October 2015.

Francis-Gaines has seen powerful results from RAPP events like the mock trial, which engaged both students and parents in an honest discussion of what they are facing in school. “You can tell the school has settled,” Francis-Gaines said. “A lot of good came out of the mock trial. We got a lot of parents asking for more of it.”

The same week, two accredited facilitators taught a RAPP training on social crime prevention to a full classroom of 21 participants at the Chagaunas police station, about 40 minutes outside of Port of Spain. “I consider it my national duty,” said Brenda McCree-Hunte, who co-taught the course. “I will do whatever I can to help.”  The goal of RAPP training is to prepare participants to serve as leaders in crime prevention, especially among “at-risk” youth, identify root causes of crime, and promote concrete crime prevention techniques, such as the use of action plans in targeted “hotspot” areas.

PADF staff accompanied members of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service to Laventille Success Secondary School to see RAPP in action. The police officers, who have undergone RAPP training, regularly visit the school, which is in a high-crime area of the capitol.

Sergeant Garth Brooks, who comes from a family of police officers and has been on the force for 26 years, pulled several of the kids aside and spoke to them about their behavior in a fatherly tone. “I remind them they are in school. They’re missing that guidance, that reinforcement. There’s a lack of it. Most of them live in single parent homes.”

Those who have gone through the RAPP training program see the benefits of approaching youth crime and violence from multiple angles. Multiple agencies must be involved, and the community must also see the value in crime prevention. By creating mutually beneficial and trusting relationship, government-citizen collaboration can affect positive change, especially among the next generation. 

“A safe school climate involves parent participation,” says Francis-Gaines. “We want parent buy-in. We want them to be involved. The ministry of education cannot do it alone.”