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California City Solutions: Rialto’s PRIDE:Platoon Turns Life Around for Troubled Children

November 21, 2014
This story is part of an ongoing series featuring Helen Putnam Award entries.
The 2014 entries are available on the League’s website as a resource for cities in a searchable database called California City Solutions. Rialto’s PRIDE Platoon Boot Camp was submitted in 2014 for the Community Services and Economic Development award category.
Rialto-PRIDE-Platoon-Line-(1).jpgYouth today often face many challenges including teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, gangs, obesity, bullying, social media and growing up in single-parent households. These factors partnered with economic instability can lead some juveniles to make bad choices. Launched Sept. 11, 2010, the Rialto PRIDE Platoon Boot Camp mentors and teaches at-risk youth.
Naturally parents have difficulty considering that their child may be at risk. It can be a mistake to think that when a pre-teen or teen aged child exhibits signs of defiance or socially unacceptable behavior the phase will pass. Some teens do not outgrow negative antisocial behavior and ultimately turn to a life of gangs, drugs, or crime.
Rialto-PRIDE-Platoon-Class.jpgRialto, a city where many households struggle financially, experienced a steady increase in juvenile committed crimes This placed a higher demand on an already overburdened juvenile justice system between 2007 and 2009. However, corresponding services for at-risk juveniles through the city, the school district and the Rialto Police Department were not increased to meet the higher demand. Concerned leaders in Rialto faced a challenge in creating a program that could effectively address these complex issues.
The Rialto Police Department previously implemented youth programs including Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), the Police Athletic League, the Police Explorer program, and the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. Although these programs are positively affecting the community, they primarily focus on good kids instead of at-risk juveniles who need rehabilitation.Rialto-PRIDE-Platoon-Push-Ups.jpg
Through much research and open communication with the residents, it became evident that Rialto needed a program to help redirect at-risk youth. The Rialto Police Department designed a program called Rialto PRIDE Platoon Boot Camp This innovative program is geared towards creating positive leaders within the community, as well as providing the tools necessary to make better choices. Pride, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Enthusiasm (PRIDE) are the core values taught throughout the program to help troubled youths build a foundation for a new lifestyle.
Staffed by Rialto police personnel, both sworn and non-sworn, who volunteer their time, the free 14-week boot camp program offers treatment, prevention, and disciplinary components to alter negative juvenile behavior. The program is currently funded by Community Development Block Grants as well as community donations. Participants are provided with uniforms and meals.
Much of the instruction is delivered by a mock military boot camp style approach, with an added curriculum that will teach students how to solve problems and use tools to display positive behavior. The developed curriculum involves every police department and includes physical training, class instruction and group discussion on a variety of topics, including gang intervention, drug intervention, traffic safety, and a military marching drill. Experts are also brought in to teach fields that are not police-related, such as leadership, ethics, career guidance, suicide prevention, financial responsibility, internet safety, bullying, self-image, anger management, health, lifelong fitness, and STD prevention.Rialto-PRIDE-Platoon-Jail-Tour.jpg
The program is collaboration between the San Bernardino County Juvenile Courts, Juvenile Probation, Social Services, the Rialto Unified School District, California State University San Bernardino, and other community-based organizations. Designed to impact participants by giving them an eye opening experience to the realities of prison life, drug addiction and gang violence, the main objective is to identify problems within the household that may have contributed to the juvenile delinquency.
The boot camp concentrates on high school and middle school students that are referred to the program through the courts, probation, schools, parents, and other references. The staff not only monitors the children during the program hours, but also at home and school by conducting random visits. The city’s partnership with the school district allows student’s grades to be monitored weekly and their attendance daily by having the child sign a roster when they arrive and leave from school. Participants who successfully complete the program receive 10 high school credits.
Officers take the students on trips to the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, the San Bernardino County Coroner’s Office, the University of Southern California, The Museum of Tolerance, and the Natural History Museum to see opportunities that exist outside of Rialto.
700x320-Rialto-PRIDE-Platoon-Group-Photo.jpgParental involvement is important to the participant’s success as the principles of PRIDE must be reinforced at home. Parents and program participants undergo a series of counseling sessions administered by California State University, San Bernardino psychology graduate students providing one-on-one, small group and family counseling. These free counseling sessions are designed to help family members improve their communication, resolve conflicts, and achieve an overall better understanding of one another.
Since the launch of Rialto PRIDE Platoon Boot Camp, 327 Rialto youths have participated in the program. Juvenile crime suspects are down by nearly 38 percent; runaway juveniles down by 45 percent; and juvenile arrests are down by 40 percent.
The program’s popularity has grown. The San Bernardino Sun Newspaper ran a feature article about the program and KVCR Channel 24 filmed and aired a 30-minute documentary on PBS called Pride Platoon. The program has also received recognition from Assembly Member Cheryl Brown.
Rialto’s PRIDE Platoon Boot Camp has created long-lasting positive effects on some of the participants. Many participants have improved school grades with several making the honor roll. Several participants who were involved in criminal street gangs have left the gangs and are now working towards becoming law enforcement officers. Still others have joined United States’ Military, and several graduates have continued on to become Rialto Police Explorers. Rialto’s Police Department believes that it is their duty to help guide troubled children to achieve their greatness.

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