Gang recruitment and involvement is a continual problem for some communities. Research indicates that a feeling of belonging, participation, and a sense of family provide the basis for gang membership. Positive Action is a proven alternative, helping students at every level feel part of something worthwhile. It offers the opportunity to do meaningful community service, particularly at the middle school level when students are at their highest risk for gang recruitment.
Educational programs that effectively counter gang involvement and recruitment need to mobilize the community, provide meaningful opportunities for youth and have mechanisms for social intervention. Positive Action includes all of these components in activities that are engaging for students of all backgrounds.
The Positive Action program does not specifically address gang activities, mythologies, symbols, or goals. Instead, it addresses the feelings of alienation, dismal self-concept, and hopelessness that draw students into gangs.
Students share a sense of belonging through the PALs Club by choosing a positive action to commit to and by being members of a group of people committed to the same goal. The positive actions vary: community service as peer tutors and peer helpers; creating art and music; helping with computers, communications, and announcements; and putting on assemblies.
The Positive Action model is inclusive and has a role for everyone. It helps students realize the shared goal of being the best they can be through the positive actions of cooperation, achievement, and exploration. When students feel connected to their family, school and community, there is reduced incentive for associating with gangs.