Orange County District Attorney to parent-greeters: GRIP wouldn’t work without you

By Lou Ponsi

The Orange County Gang Reduction and Intervention Partnership, commonly known as OC GRIP, is succeeding in its mission of steering at-risk kids away from gangs and back to the classroom.

Schools, the police and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, which administers the program, all play a role.

But as O.C. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas pointed out to about 175 parent-greeters in the Santa Ana Unified School District, GRIP wouldn’t work without them.

Maria Ayala of Lowell Elementary smiles as she has her picture taken with officers from the Santa Ana PD at a May 31 breakfast to honor GRIP parents.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The parent-greeters who offer kind words and smiles to children every morning at 13 Santa Ana schools were praised for their service at an informal ceremony at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School on May 31.

“Without your help, without your support, without you working as greeters to make the schools better, none of this would work,” Rackauckas told the parents. “It’s good for the kids. It’s good for the schools. It’s good for the communities. It’s good for all of us.”

Mary Garcia of Davis Elementary is cheered as her name is called during a ceremony to honor GRIP parents.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Along with greeting youngsters, greeters help the police by keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

“The GRIP program and you are all about giving our kids a chance to be successful,” said Santa Ana PD Commander Ken Gominsky. “You guys make such a huge difference in so many kids’ lives, every day.”

Santa Ana PD Commander Ken Gominsky welcomes GRIP parents during a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary School in Santa Ana.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Margarita Gonzalez, a greeter at Roosevelt Elementary School for about three years, said all the parent-greeters volunteer out of love for the kids and the community.

“Our school is very dense,” Gonzalez said. “There is crime and things going on. We want the school to be a positive environment.”

Santa Ana School Police Department Interim Chief Mark Van Holt smiles as GRIP parents gather at a recognition ceremony at Lincoln Elementary School in Santa Ana.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Gonzalez also has seen the parent-greeter program grow at Roosevelt.

“At the beginning, we only had like two parents,” she said. “Now we have 18. So, over the years, there is more involvement and more engagement. It is very positive. We feel very comfortable having the connection with the other parents and the students.”

OC GRIP also helps to strengthen the relationship between the police and the community, especially the children, Gonzalez said.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas talks to GRIP parents during a ceremony to honor them at Lincoln Elementary School in Santa Ana.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“It has changed the kids’ perspective toward the police,” Gonzalez said. “Before, they used to be scared. Now they are not scared. They (know the police) are friends and they are here to help us.”

Countywide, there are 1,500 parent-greeters volunteering at 42 elementary and middle schools.

Maria Cortes smiles as her name is called while GRIP parents from Madison Elementary walk on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

OC GRIP has received a California School Boards Association Golden Bell Award, Cities, Counties and Schools Partnership Award, and the California State Association of Counties Challenge Merit Award.

“These parents really care,” Rackauckas said. “They really want these kids to do better.”

GRIP parents from Lincoln Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Adams Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Monte Vista Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Lowell Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Davis Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Diamond Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Kennedy Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Russell Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Roosevelt Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Friends take photos as GRIP parents from Fremont Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Fremont Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

GRIP parents from Madison Elementary gather on stage with members of the Santa Ana PD as they are honored at a ceremony at Lincoln Elementary.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC