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School News

The Council on Substance Abuse and Youth (CSAY) is committed to the prevention and reduction of youth and adult substance abuse in Westmoreland County. Sarah Opalinski, community mobilizer/ prevention specialist for Westmoreland Drug & Alcohol Commission, Inc., and who works for WEDAC on the coalition CSAY, said, "We are dedicated to working together to provide education, encourage recovery, and create social change, and to empower individuals to take a stand to end substance abuse in our neighborhoods."

Raven Anderson of the Monessen School District designed the September page of the CSAY calendar to focus on childhood depression.

One of the latest projects in this effort is a calendar, sponsored by WEDAC and CSAY, which includes designs submitted by students from Westmoreland County schools. Opalinski said CSAY, which was formed in 2008, normally goes to the schools for various activities, such as student health fairs or to take pictures, "but we weren't able to do that this year. So we wanted to do something special and we came up with this calendar contest."

She explained that various organizations set aside certain awareness times throughout the year. For example, March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, September 30 is Overdose Awareness Day, the week before Thanksgiving is the Great American Smoke-Out, etc. The students were directed to choose one of these awareness periods and design a corresponding picture.

The contest was open to students in grades 6 – 12 from all Westmoreland County School Districts, and Opalinski said submissions came in from Belle Vernon, Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Monessen, and Mt. Pleasant. CSAY members voted on the artwork for each month, with the winners each receiving a $50 Amazon gift card, while the ones chosen for the front and back covers each received a $100 Amazon gift card.

The winners were Anna G. Moore, Franklin Regional School District; Isabella Dunford, Josh Hodge, Gianna Patricelli, Emilie Robbins (front cover), Claire Shapiro, Jade Varhola, and Julia Varhola, Hempfield Area School District; Raven Anderson (calendar page plus back cover) and AhRaeia Henderson, Monessen School District; and Emily Brown, Paige Eperjesi, and Aydan Gross, Mt. Pleasant Area School District.

"They did such a great job," Opalinski said. "I love to see kids do anything that gets them feeling good and for which they get recognition; that's what they need – more recognition for good activities. We call it social involvement."

When the calendar is printed, each student will receive copies to share, and calendars will be delivered to schools, as well as to organizations that are involved with CSAY.




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