In December 2016, ten high school students from the City of San Marcos were the latest to graduate from the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Project coordinated by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS) Unit at the San Marcos Community Center. The after-school program is designed to identify high-risk youth and divert them away from gang activity or crime by placing them with a Sheriff’s deputy mentor to encourage Responsibility, Ethics, Strength, Perseverance, Education, Courage and Trustworthiness (R.E.S.P.E.C.T.).
Developed in 2014, the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Project is implemented in partnership with the COPPS deputies and local community and faith-based organizations to teach students about core topics related to character development and connect them to local groups and social services. Students in the program meet with deputies for a two-hour class once a week for 12 weeks where they learn basic life and career skills, are offered free meals, participate in physical activities, and develop true friendships and positive role models that offer hope for success. Deputies provide students with guest speakers from the community, such as reformed gang members or local business owners who encourage and inspire students to plan for their futures.
Through the program, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. instructors are able to build personal relationships with students to help them address their personal struggles and remove all barriers to participation in the program. COPPS deputies are invested in the success of the students, even visiting them throughout the week on school campus.
Following graduation, deputies connect students to job trainings, employment opportunities and college classes enabling them to succeed long after completion of the program. Additionally, this month’s graduating class received a commemorative skateboard donated by a local business for their efforts and dedication to lifelong personal growth. To date, thirty students have graduated from the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Project.