Communities That Care group analyzes PAYS data
One of the primary focuses of the Communities That Care (CTC) group is to analyze the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) data gathered and find ways to address potential risk factors. The group continued with its in-depth discussions at the Aug. 17 meeting, held in the public meeting room of the Whitehall Township Municipal Building.
Denise Continenza, the group’s coordinator, initiated the conversation by pointing out specific areas of the survey, which was given to sixth-, eighth-, 10th- and 12th-grade students in the Whitehall-Coplay School District.
One of the areas the group has focused on in the past and continues to make a priority is community involvement. CTC members want to see the students get out in the community and to have the community build up around to support the students. The PAYS data showed a higher number of students who feel a low neighborhood attachment.
To aid with this, Continenza mentioned wanting more direct input from the students. She wants to know what they like and what they dislike about the community, what will help get them out and involved and what will make the students want to stay in the area after their schooling is complete.
Both Whitehall Township Mayor Michael Harakal Jr. and Laura Long, with Fellowship Community and Whitehall Area Rotary Club, want to see a greater involvement between the senior citizen population and the school-aged kids.
It was mentioned the demographic in the township has shifted, both ethnically and age wise.
“We need to work to make sure everyone is invested in the community,” Harakal said.
Harakal also pointed out good areas to plan events are the playgrounds and fire stations. He mentioned they are the centers of activity in Whitehall, and they should be utilizing those resources to their full potential.
The group took time to discuss different options for events such as food trucks, movie viewings, etc.
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong mentioned he was hoping to take the CTC countywide.
Armstrong also mentioned the county is exploring the idea of having a student panel with representatives from all over the county. Student Government Day, started by Armstrong and held in May, helped demonstrate how students care about their communities and want to have a say in government. Armstrong, having worked as an educator for years, was not surprised by this and has already received correspondence from several students interested in serving on just such a panel.
One of the group’s other focuses continues to be on parental attitudes. There was an increase in the number of students who mentioned a favorable attitude toward anti-social behavior from their parents. This number has been on a steady increase from the first time the data was available in 2013 and again in 2015.
Spreading news and education about the dangers of social hosting was a primary focus of the CTC over the past year. Most students admitted they have an easy access to alcohol in the home from their parents.
It is worth noting the number of students who reported using hard drugs has declined; however, there is still a perceived low risk of drug use in students. A higher number of students reported using marijuana and vaping compared to harder drugs, such as heroin.
The CTC is continuing its analysis of the PAYS data and will be focusing on classifying priorities and new focuses for the new school year. The next meeting of the group will be 8:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church, 3355 MacArthur Road.