GASTONIA--Several Gastonia police officers traded in their uniforms for t-shirts, and their patrol duties to help educate some fifth graders about drugs, gangs, and bullying on Saturday. It's a part of the third annual GREAT Gastonia Kids Camp, which is held for one day every summer.
"When we stopped teaching DARE in school, I noticed a difference of I didn't have that relationship with the kids anymore because I wasn't in the school system, they didn't see my face everyday, that sort of thing,” said Sgt. David Morton.
They say this is an important age, because the students have just one more year before they enter middle school. They say at this age, drugs, gangs, and bullying can already be present.
"Particularly gangs. They target elementary school kids, middle school kids at that early age to bring them inside their gang and go ahead and make them gang members, so we want to go ahead and hit them at an early age and give them the education and the tools needed to hopefully keep them out of those situations,” said Morton.
For many of the kids, bullying was a subject they wanted to learn more about.
"If you keep on bullying people you won't get good grades, because all you do is bully. And if you bully other people, then that makes them not get a good education because all they can think about is people doing it to them,” said camper and rising fifth grader Faith Moss.
They say everything they're learning today, will help them make the right choices in the future.
"So you can get a good education or you won't do drugs or bully people or get in gangs, and if you do, you won't have a good education,” said Moss.
"It keeps the kids out of trouble. It gives them something positive to focus on and we stress that. We stress they get good grades, make sure you stay out of trouble, show respect to each other. That way you go on to middle school, you go on to high school, and you can go on to college,” said Morton.
Each camper at the GREAT Gastonia Kids Camp also left with a backpack full of school supplies, as well as a gift card to Shoe Carnival to buy new shoes for the first day of school.