ELITE Boot Camp Keeping Trewyn Kids in Line, Now & Later

By Anna Yee

August 24, 2011 Updated Aug 24, 2011 at 11:08 PM CDT

It's back to class at Trewyn Middle School, and this year, new lessons are keeping the students in line.

"They're teaching us about respect, and they're teaching us how to behave," said Kayja Coleman, a Trewyn 7th grader. "And they're teaching us how to be elite."

ELITE, as in Carl Cannon's version.

Peoria Park District's ELITE Youth Outreach is taking over Trewyn this entire year.

First up on the agenda: boot camp, 45 minute sessions, for two-weeks straight, setting expectations for everything from manners to appearance.

"The violence that has happened in our city is terrible," said Brandon Shockley, the ELITE Lead Compliance Officer. "It's a tragedy, but the things we have to focus on is that we have to get to the kids early, and we have to show that we love and care early."

"Trewyn has a history that really has not been positive," said Renee Andrews, the Trewyn School Principal. "We speak to some of the students who were here in years past that are still here. They talk about the difference, the changes they see, they feel. They actually feel safe."

In just three days, the principal says about 98% of the students have already shown improvement.

"They're trying to keep you out of trouble in here and out there, because if you act up," said Terence Stone, a Trewyn 8th grader, "you might end up going to jail or something."

And Terence isn't the only one digesting the change.

"Some of the kids, as I have spoken with them, have broken down and cried, because it's not yelling at them," said Andrews. "It's not blaming, but it's truly listening and sort of giving them the chance to de-escalate before they get a chance to talk."

Trewyn is the only school to land the ELITE program this year.

"It makes me feel happy," said 7th grader Coleman, "because the other schools think they're good, but this year, this school is going to learn a lot of respect."

It's the first step towards change, a challenge these kids have accepted as they look to the future of their community.

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