DETROIT (WXYZ) -- The Tigers hosted a group of kids from the Gang Resistance Education And Training program Thursday afternoon and gave them a once in a lifetime experience at the ballpark.
“The Detroit Tigers have been involved in this program for 23 years, and this is their opportunity to say thank you to these kids for doing such a marvelous job," explained G.R.E.A.T. Coordinator Warren Harding.
G.R.E.A.T. is a nationwide program run through law enforcement offices across the country.
"Paying attention in school, being great role models for other kids in the school and for a select 40 kids, they got to go downstairs and meet one of the Detroit players who shared his story," said Harding of their morning meeting with Tigers catcher James McCann.
"When I grow up I want to be an NFL player, and that’s showing me steps that I can take to be an NFL player," said 14-year-old Devon Botlon.
"When we were in that little room and they were talking to us about what we should do it’s just really inspiring," said 13-year-old Kimani Johnson.
Both Johnson and Bolton said the program has helped them make the right choices.
"Stay in school, have good grades, don’t do anything bad like drugs or alcohol," explained Johnson.
"We do training like how to respect people. say no to drugs, say no to gangs, learn how to walk away when you’re angry," said Bolton.
Harding explained that -- for many of the kids in the program -- their participation shapes how they view law enforcement.
"It’s definitely more necessary now than ever. With the advent of social media, we get to influence their minds instead of social media influencing their minds," he said.
Harding said having a partnership with an organization like the Tigers really drives the core messages home.
"When they can see that a their role models have done these very same things and have been successful at it that makes a big difference."