Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 Community Youth Worker Annual Report Released

(Below is an excerpt from this year's Community Youth Worker annual report. For the entire report via PDF, email


When Floyd Faulkner came onboard to pilot the newly-created position of Community Youth Worker, there were high hopes amongst all interested in our community’s youth that this would prove to be successful in engaging more community youth in positive behaviors. Now in its fifth year, the program has proved to be highly successful, in no small part due to Floyd himself, as well as the commitment of organizations and individuals throughout the community who support the position. Most significantly, Quaker Valley School District has incorporated this position as a part of the district’s administrative staff, insuring that this valuable program continues.

The Community Youth Worker (CYW) is focused on the mission to give our young people the best chance to enjoy teen years while avoiding risky behavior. The primary approach is based upon the theory of the 40 Developmental Assets. Very simply: Our CYW Floyd Faulkner, as a caring adult, ensures that our children are strengthened with increased access to resources during their most vulnerable years. The message to the youth of our community is clear: We care about you, and want to help you find what you need to be successful. Working in close partnership with Youth Connect, the CYW helps to identify how to best supply these resources.

Although the CYW is primarily focused on middle schoolers, Floyd continues to work with children from pre-K through post-grad and their families. The following report highlights some of the key accomplishments for 2012-2013.

Our Community Youth Worker
Relationships with the Youths
The 8th grade students Floyd first met during the pilot year are now getting ready to graduate. It is rewarding to see how students have matured over the years, many achieving at unexpected levels.  This year has included writing letters of recommendations for college and jobs, as these students move on from school.
While it is difficult to put into numbers the impact of the Floyd’s work, the day to day effects are clear. For example, now when teachers or administration see signs of problems with a student, they bring Floyd in. Typically, he knows the student, has a relationship with the student, and is able to provide valuable input into the situation. Issues quickly diffuse rather than turn into greater disciplinary or academic problems.

Relationships with the Families
The families are also a key part of this. No work with youth can truly be successful without involvement of the family. As CYW, Floyd often reaches out to parents of students – not just to address negative behaviors, but because he also often identifies positive behaviors that would benefit from providing further opportunities for the youth. Families value this level of interest and support for their children.
It works in the other direction, as well. Because Floyd is very visible in the community and has developed many positive relationships with adults, families trust him. It is not unusual for parents to first turn to him when they have concerns, or are just looking for some guidance regarding their children.

The Discretionary Fund
Funding from the Sewickley Presbyterian Church, Union Aid and others (noted in the box below) have created a discretionary fund for the CYW to use as needed to provide access to opportunities for youth in the community. Floyd identifies opportunities, both for individual youth, and for group activities, and is able to tap into the fund to make sure these opportunities can be taken.

2012-2013 Donors

The Grable Foundation
Penguin Bookshop
Union Aid
 Barbara Thaw
 Sewickley Presbyterian Church
Youth Connect

Life-Expanding Experiences
Fishing: With help from Who’s Your Brother, Floyd and Luke Wholey (of the Pittsburgh’s famed Wholey family, and proprietor of Wild Alaskan Grille in the Strip District) took 3 boys fishing – a new and fun experience for them. Afterwards, Luke took the group back to his restaurant, showed them how to filet and cook fish, and then treated all to a meal!

Thurgood:  Floyd took 9 students to see the play “Thurgood” at Pittsburgh Public Theatre. The students were impressed by all that they learned about Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Black Angels Over Tuskagee: Around the time of the Tuskagee Airmen celebration in Sewickley, a group of students and parents were treated to an evening in the city to see “Black Angels Over Tuskagee” via the CYW discretionary fund.

Robert Morris University tour:  Floyd worked with QVSD and RMU to arrange a college tour for 26 7th and  8th graders for the second year. The tour is intended to give students a better view of what college is like, as well as help them understand what they need to focus on in their upcoming high school years. The tour was once again very well received, with students already clamoring for this year’s tour.

Health and Wellness
Many students are interested in participating in sports, or working out at the Y, yet don’t have the financial ability to sign up. This year, Floyd has used the discretionary fund to sponsor several students in the Quaker Valley Wrestling Program, send five students to the Sewickley YMCA summer camp, provide support for approximately 30 student YMCA memberships, and pay for 4 Youth Basketball League memberships.  He also was able to connect one student with free tennis coaching.

The Sewickley Valley YMCA routinely offers fun excursions for students, usually with some small fee attached. Sometimes even this small fee, however, prevents a student from being able to participate. Over the past year, Floyd has been able to use discretionary funds to ensure that any student wanting to go on an excursion can do so.

 Through the discretionary fund, Floyd has continued to provide support for some students with excellent musical skills. One of his students being coached is on her way to auditions at prestigious conservatories, for admittance next school year.

Through his strong relationship with the staff of Laughlin Children’s Center, along with discretionary funds, Floyd provided referrals, as well as four sponsorships, for tutoring and counseling.

Middle School Engagement
One of the key roles of the CYW is to engage with middle-schoolers, during their most vulnerable years. It is therefore very important that Floyd spends a sizeable amount of time at the Quaker Valley Middle School, getting to know the students, and making sure they understand how he can help them.

This past spring, Floyd was a key part in planning “Transformation Day”, an event for all middle schoolers where the girls were treated to a presentation by Kiya Tomlin, and Jamal Woodson along with Floyd talked with the boys about expectations, their futures, and risky behaviors. This event was well-received by the students, and will be repeated again this coming spring.

Maintaining a consistent presence at the Quaker Valley Middle School is important to maintaining connection. In a new program this year, Floyd participates in “Period X”, where he routinely plays basketball and football with students.  This past spring, he once again was chaperone for the 6th grade class trip.
When the middle schoolers move on to 9th Grade,  Floyd continues to play a role. At 9th Grade Orientation, Floyd spoke to  the students about the new opportunities coming to them, risky behaviors, growing closer to parents instead of apart, relationship-building, and taking advantage of the support of high school staff. Having established relationships with the students in middle school, this speech is key part of their transition…”Mr. Floyd” reminding them of all that the good that they have in front of them.

Community Collaborations
Laughlin Children’s Center
Floyd has found that some parents who could most benefit from Laughlin Children’s Center resources are unaware of the valuable counseling, tutoring, and other services offered. When parents identify needs that might be served by LCC, Floyd ensures that they understand what is available to them. He also provides sponsorships through the discretionary fund, or arranges scholarships with LCC, as needed.

Sewickley Valley YMCA:  Floyd continues to attend the OASIS afterschool program, both helping to supervise along with Hank Ford, YMCA Youth Director, as well as continuing to develop relationships with middle-schoolers who attend.

Sewickley Public Library: Working with Teen Librarian Emily Fear, Floyd took a group of 11 middle school girls on a field trip to experience a women-run radio station. The goal was to expose the girls to fields that are historically male-dominated. The girls’ response to the event was so great that Floyd and Emily are now working on bringing a full girls’ leadership program (Blossom and Flourish) to the community this coming winter.

St. Stephens Church: Floyd presented to the St. Stephens Side-by-Side program, helping single mothers to understand his role and how he might help them and their children.

Sewickley Academy/Summerbridge: Each year Floyd recruits students from QVSD and the Cornell School District for the Summerbridge program hosted by Sewickley Academy. For the accepted students, it has been a life-changing experience. We now have a total of 11 kids in the program.  And particularly good news: The program has added a year, so students attend as rising 6th graders through rising 10th graders.

QVSD Parenting Series: As CYW, Floyd has played a key role in developing and supporting a series of workshops by Dr. Don Sheffield on the topic of parenting. In addition to recruiting parents to attend, he joins the families for dinner then entertains the children while their parents spend time learning with Dr. Sheffield.
QVMS Afterschool programs: On days not at the OASIS, Floyd is with the students at Jeff Evanko’s Art Program, or Bruce Wolovich’s  Service

Quaker Valley Wrestling: As part of the founding team, Floyd is heavily involved in the new QV Wrestling Team, now in year two. The past year, the team grew to 45 students ages 5 – 12. Floyd has been able to provide scholarships to students that allow them to participate. And, most importantly, he coaches!

Thank You to the Organizations Who Partner with our Community Youth Worker
Through Youth Connect, a large number of organizations are now collaborating with our Community Youth Worker. We are especially grateful to Laughlin Children’s Center for providing office space and support.

Child Health Assn of Sewickley
Sewickley Academy
Cornell School District                         
Sewickley Community Center
Fern Hollow Nature Center
Sewickley Presbyterian Church
Friends of Quaker Valley Schools
Sewickley Public Library
Laughlin Children’s Center
Sewickley Valley YMCA
Magistrate Bob Ford
Sweetwater Center for the Arts
Quaker Valley School District
Union Aid
St. Stephens Church
Youth Connect
Samaritan Counseling Center

Above and Beyond
In addition to his role as CYW, Floyd has become increasingly involved in supporting the community. He is now serving as a board director for both the Sewickley Valley YMCA and Friends of Quaker Valley Schools Education Foundation, as well as coach of the Quaker Valley Wrestling Association. He also regularly supports requests to speak in the Sewickley area to various groups and organizations.

Plans for the Future
As CYW, Floyd is continually looking for new opportunities to support our youth. This coming spring, he is planning to form a Boys-To-Men group for Period X, along with QV Counselor Matt Parrish. He is also working on an “Importance of Fathers” event for the community, via Youth Connect.

Youth Worker Advisory Board
While the CYW position is a QVSD position, it is supported in many ways by the community. Oversight for the position is provided by the YWAC, which includes Child Health Association of Sewickley; Laughlin Children’s Center; The Presbyterian Church, Sewickley; Quaker Valley School District, Sewickley Valley YMCA, and Youth Connect. The group meets the Youth Worker each month to learn of his recent activities, and identify opportunities to provide support for efforts.

This past year, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association put together a video of “heroes” from across the state, and Floyd was specifically highlighted for his afterschool efforts. He is certainly our Everyday Hero!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From the New York Times: Increasing Marijuana Use in High School Is Reported

The percentage of American high school students who smoke marijuana is slowly rising.
A new federal report shows that the percentage of American high school students who smoke marijuana is slowly rising, while the use of alcohol and almost every other drug is falling.
The report raises concerns that the relaxation of restrictions on marijuana, which can now be sold legally in 20 states and the District of Columbia, has been influencing use of the drug among teenagers. Health officials are concerned by the steady increase and point to what they say is a growing body of evidence that adolescent brains, which are still developing, are susceptible to subtle changes caused by marijuana.
“The acceptance of medical marijuana in multiple states leads to the sense that if it’s used for medicinal purposes, then it can’t be harmful,” said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which issued the report. “This survey has shown very consistently that the greater the number of kids that perceive marijuana as risky, the less that smoke it.” Starting early next year, recreational marijuana use will also be legal in Colorado and Washington.
Experts debate the extent to which heavy marijuana use may cause lasting detriment to the brain. But Dr. Volkow said that one way marijuana might affect cognitive function in adolescents was by disrupting the normal development of white matter through which cells in the brain communicate.
According to the latest federal figures, which were part of an annual survey, Monitoring the Future, more than 12 percent of eighth graders and 36 percent of seniors at public and private schools around the country said they had smoked marijuana in the past year. About 60 percent of high school seniors said they did not view regular marijuana use as harmful, up from about 55 percent last year.
The report looked at a wide variety of drugs and substances. It found, for example, that drinking was steadily declining, with roughly 40 percent of high school seniors reporting having used alcohol in the past month, down from a peak of 53 percent in 1997. Abuse of the prescription painkiller Vicodin is half what it was a decade ago among seniors; cocaine and heroin use are at historic lows in almost every grade.
Cigarette smoking has also fallen precipitously in recent years. For the first time since the survey began, the percentage of students who smoked a cigarette in the past month dropped below 10 percent. Roughly 8.5 percent of seniors smoke cigarettes on a daily basis, compared with 6.5 percent who smoke marijuana daily, a slight increase from 2010.
Studies show that the concentration of THC in marijuana, its psychoactive ingredient, has tripled since the early 1990s, and Dr. Volkow said there was concern that the rising use and increased potency could affect the likelihood of car accidents and could lower school performance.
“What is most worrisome is that we’re seeing high levels of everyday use of marijuana among teenagers,” Dr. Volkow said. “That is the type that’s most likely to have negative effects on brain function and performance.”
new study published this week by scientists at Northwestern University, which showed what appeared to be lasting brain alterations in people who smoked marijuana as adolescents, has become part of the debate. Using brain imaging scans, the scientists showed that in comparison with young adults who had never smoked marijuana, those who used it daily for about three years as teenagers had differences in structures like the thalamus, globus pallidus and striatum.
These regions of the brain may help form a sort of mental notepad, called working memory, that allows people to solve puzzles, remember a telephone number or quickly process other bits of information needed for everyday tasks. Working memory is also a strong predictor of academic achievement in adolescents, said Matthew J. Smith, an author of the study and an assistant research professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study could not determine whether the structural abnormalities were present before the subjects began smoking marijuana. But it did show that the younger the students were when they started, the greater the alterations. And the extent of those abnormalities was directly linked to how poorly the subjects did on memory tests.
One expert who was not involved in the study, Dr. Sanjiv Kumra, the director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, said it was likely that more teenagers would misuse marijuana in the coming years. And that is concerning because adolescence is “a particularly susceptible period of ongoing brain development,” he said.
“There is this idea that cannabis is a harmless drug,” he added, “and these findings question that.”
A version of this article appears in print on 12/18/2013, on page A20 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Increasing Marijuana Use In High School Is Reported.