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Communities That Care members start planning for goals

At the July 28 Whitehall-Coplay Communities That Care meeting, coalition members finalized the committees’ short-term goals and started discussing strategies and action steps moving forward.

The substance use prevention committee’s goal is to see no more than a 2% increase in vaping use and related acts as per the 2023 Pennsylvania Youth Survey. To achieve this goal, committee members want greater emphasis on educating students on the dangers of vaping. They want students to understand the “why” behind the prevention efforts.

The committee will support the implementation of evidence-based prevention programming at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School and Whitehall High School.

The committee addressing low commitment to school wants to reduce the number of students in grades 6-12 who say they do not participate in pro-social activities by 5%, according to the 2023 PAYS. They are working to conduct a survey among students at the start of the 2023-24 school year to gauge interest in clubs and activities. This will also help them determine if there are gaps between interest and what activities are currently offered in the schools.

It was noted holding a club rush event in the fall will help students learn about everything that is available. It was also reported the new community service graduation requirement will help push other students to step up and be involved in something outside of school.

School board President William Fonzone noted they are also working to implement an activity period in the school day to give more students an opportunity to get involved. He said a lot of students are prevented from joining clubs, sports and other activities because of after-school commitments, like working and watching younger siblings. An activity period during the school day would allow them that opportunity.

The mental health and wellness committee is working to reduce by 10% on the 2023 PAYS the number of 12th-graders who said they seriously considered suicide in the past year compared to the rate they expressed on the 2021 PAYS as 10th-graders.

There were 29% of 10th-graders in the 2021 PAYS who reported they seriously considered suicide. To address this goal, the committee wants to increase the number of members of the Aevidum Clubs. Aevidum Clubs work to “empower youth to shatter the silence surrounding depression, suicide and other issues facing teens,” according to its website.

The committee also mentioned the idea of creating video PSAs of students talking about their concerns and emphasizing that it is OK to ask for help. The idea had been brought up at an earlier meeting, primarily using Whitehall-Coplay School District students to lend a familiar face to the message and have the message come directly from their peers.

It was discussed using the Aevidum and STARS Club members, as well as any A/V, video or TV production students to help get the message out. The videos could be played on the classroom TVs during homeroom or on the scoreboard at sporting events to reach a larger audience.

In other business, Denise Continenza, Penn State Extension educator and CTC moderator, said she ordered more yard signs featuring positive PAYS data to be distributed around the community and parks.

The next Whitehall-Coplay CTC meeting will be held 9 a.m. Aug. 25 in the LGI room at WHS.