C.E.R.T. partners with RPS to improve behavioral issues

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rochester’s Community Engagement Response Team (C.E.R.T.) will soon have a presence in Rochester Public Schools (RPS).

“We are a solution-based organization,” said Andre Crockett, C.E.R.T. leader.

C.E.R.T. is a group of volunteers who help alleviate issues within the community.

Last summer, the group patrolled downtown weekends night to prevent violence. The initiative began after a fatal shooting in downtown Rochester last June.

The organization has grown from around six members to around 30.

By the end of April, C.E.R.T. will mentor RPS students to help them resolve problems effectively.

“We’re going to develop a Junior C.E.R.T. program. And what that entails is that we’re going to bring inclusivity. We’re going to bring a non-violent approach,” Crockett said. “Bringing back the sense of community within inside the schools.”

The schools involved are Willow Creek Middle School, John Marshall, and Mayo High School.

The district said the program is a way to lower behavioral problems in schools.

“The question of why schools across the country we are seeing disruptive behavior is super complex,” said Kent Pekel, RPS superintendent. “Is it the impact of the pandemic? Is it the aftermath of the struggles that followed George Floyd’s murder? Is it the economic challenges families are facing? And it’s probably all of the above.”

He said the schools are doing their part to help students feel comfortable inside buildings.

“If kids do not feel they really belong. If they don’t feel positively engaged. If they don’t feel that school is meaningful that disruptive behaviors are very likely to increase. So we’re doing a lot inside the schools to enhance their sense of belonging,” Pekel said. “While we are still putting very clear expectations on behaviors we’re also going to lean in to support and this new partnership with CERT is one example of the support we’re trying to put in place.”

Pekel also emphasized the need for students to have more positive role models of color inside schools.

“The schools in terms of our staff are not as diverse as they should be or as they need to be and in our new strategic plan we are going to be working on very very hard to increase the diversity of our staff,” he said.

Crockett believes with extra attention and guidance, students can be motivated to be better versions of themselves.

“If we give the kids the opportunity to lead community engagement activities. I think that we’ll see the empowerment, and we can see the change they can bring forth with their peers inside the schools,” he said.

C.E.R.T. will only be at three RPS schools for the rest of the school year as a pilot program. If the program is successful, it could continue into next year.

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