CTC group reviews data from youth survey
One of the largest topics of conversation at the Whitehall-Coplay Communities That Care (CTC) meeting, held May 18, was an overview of the recent Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data.
Denise Continenza, CTC coordinator, handed out information on understanding the data and different uses for the information learned. The group is planning on extensively reviewing the 115-page report at the June meeting; however, some of the school district personnel have already begun analyzing the data.
Chad Stefanyak, a counselor at Whitehall High School, mentioned there are some areas in the report he wants to discuss with students to get their perspective. He believes it will be beneficial and increase understanding of some of the newer trends to talk with some of the students.
One of those areas is the rising popularity of vaping. According to the Center on Addiction, vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device. This aerosol usually contains nicotine, but some people fill the pens with THC, the chemical in marijuana responsible for most of its affects.
This is such a new trend that there are no laws yet saying that students can’t have the vape pens. The pens and similar such devices are easier to hide, which makes it difficult for school personnel to address the problem.
“It’s everywhere, not just Whitehall,” said Officer Matt Christman, a school resource officer with the district.
Continenza spoke on how students have a perception of the risks involved with vaping. It was also reported that according to the PAYS data, cigarette and chew tobacco usage is down, but e-cigarettes and vaping are on the rise. Continenza mentioned youths are getting more creative and changing the game when it comes to these types of devices.
“There’s always going to be a substance. We need to address the root cause,” said Continenza, referencing the importance of the PAYS data.
Stefanyak also reported quickly that while vaping may be a growing problem, the number of school-aged youths using heroin is down exponentially.
Also at the meeting, Shari Noctor, from the Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative, reported the summer breakfast camps are starting June 18 and that they have two new locations. The locations of the camps are St. John’s Lutheran Church, 835 Third St., Fullerton; Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church, 4331 Main St., Egypt; and Redeemed Christian Church of God, 5 N. Third St., Coplay. A new feature for the camps this year is that each week will be themed to represent a different country and culture.
Noctor did mention that with the extra locations, they are in need of more volunteers to help out.
“I want to feed these kids, but we need help,” she said.
Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. attended the meeting and gave some feedback from the May 7 Student Government Day in Whitehall.
“It was an eye-opening experience. The kids were very impressive,” he reported.
According to Harakal, the students really stepped into their roles and voiced some real concerns they had in the township. They were very vocal about littering and were coming up with ideas on how to fix the problem. Township officials were so moved by these students that they are taking action to combat litter in the township, demonstrating that, in Whitehall, everyone’s voice is heard.
In other news, Continenza recently received the Director’s Award for Collaboration and Partnership during the recent extension annual conference.
It was also noted many of the school districts in the area are looking to Whitehall as the model for similar community groups.
The next CTC meeting is June 22 to analyze and delve into the PAYS data.