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CTC to place signs around community

At Whitehall-Coplay Communities That Care’s Aug. 19 meeting, Denise Continenza, CTC coordinator and Penn State Extension educator, showed the coalition’s new yard signs.

The signs will serve a dual purpose - letting the community know about positive data points from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey and to spread awareness about the coalition. These yard signs are part of the coalition checkup program. CTC members decided to work on increased communication and awareness in the community.

The signs will be posted around the community in areas with higher foot traffic, such as the local parks, the Ironton Rail Trail, Jordan Creek Greenway and more.

In other business, Continenza reported there will once again be youths joining the coalition at the beginning of the school year. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were a handful of students from Whitehall High School and Whitehall-Coplay Middle School who attended the meetings and offered an invaluable perspective.

The rest of the meeting involved continued discussion and analysis of the PAYS data.

The anonymous survey is taken by students in grades 6-12 every two years to explore how different risk and protective factors affect the students in the district. This information is used to inform programming for future school years.

Chapter topics include use of and access to alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; anti-social behavior; community and school climate and safety; social and emotional health; and systemic factors.

Regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, it was reported cigarette usage among all grades has been decreasing since 2017. However, the vaping numbers are reportedly an area of concern.

It was noted there does not seem to be a problem with Whitehall/Coplay youths using hard drugs.

The social and emotional health section revealed a general increase in depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation. Positive data points included low rates of students who reported being worried about missing meals for financial reasons and more students reporting getting at least seven hours of sleep on school nights.

The school climate and safety data revealed a low commitment to school among students. It was noted a higher rate of students reported not thinking school was important. As a positive, the majority of students reported feeling safe and not threatened in schools. They also reported not being worried about weapons in the schools.

One common factor noted among the different sections included 10th-grade students. The numbers regarding self-harm, depressive feelings, low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts or attempts were higher for these students. Additionally, the alcohol usage numbers were increased for the 10th-graders.

It was also noted the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected these numbers. This consideration needs to be remembered when looking at the data and when planning strategies moving forward. Many aspects of our lives changed during the past few years, which may alter the way we address problems moving forward.

The next CTC meeting is set for Sept. 23.

PRESS PHOTO BY SAMANTHA ANDERSON Denise Continenza, Whitehall-Coplay Communities That Care coordinator and Penn State Extension educator, shows one of the coalition's new yard signs.