For the past six months, Marlene Singer has been educating community leaders about the challenges facing local children.
Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center’s community health coordinator talks about drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, social media, family issues and other topics during a presentation she has given about a dozen times.
On Wednesday, she shared some of the findings with members of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Chamber of Commerce’s Women’s Information Network Committee as they attended a luncheon at Sunnehanna Country Club in Westmont.
“It’s based on the Pennsylvania Youth Survey and what we know about what our youth are doing and how they view the community,” Singer said, “(It’s also about) what we feel that some of the local businesses and community leaders would have to offer back to that demographic to help them be more productive members of the community.”
Singer said audiences have been receptive to her message.
“I think that we’ve had a really good response of people stepping up to want to do programs in schools, to mentor young students, just find out more about what the resources are out there, what the different agencies provide, things like that,” Singer said. “It’s been received very well.”
A few highlights pointed out by Singer are:
• Some students think adults consider the “tech generation” lazy;
• Binge drinking is increasing;
• Texting and driving is a “big problem”;
• Marijuana is the “accepted drug of choice” for high school students;
n Schools are the strongest resources for students.
The information, culled from PAYS, which is taken biennially by students in sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grades, has helped schools gain a better understanding about the needs and concerns of their students, according to Cambria County Commissioner Thomas Chernisky. He is a supporter of Communities That Care, a system that works to help children.
“We actually know what’s going on in real time and we can educate the schools about what’s going on in their community,” Chernisky said.
“What we did find out is a lot of these kids would rather be in school. It’s good for them to be among people they feel comfortable with and where they can be active. The more active they are – in participating in sports to non-sports activities, just being active in school – keeps them from getting in trouble.”
An important reason for disseminating the information is to educate adults about how they can help students through their childhood years with the goal of developing them into productive members of society – including as workers – later in life.
“Today’s (event) is focused on workforce and the issues that we are having with continuing the workforce and finding new people to fill in the gaps of the retiring people,” said Michele Bonerigo, chairwoman of the Women’s Information Network Committee.