4-week program educates students about e-cigs

All Sixth Grade Center students are taking the CATCH My Breath educational program.
Posted on 01/07/2020
Lee Hellinger of the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania hands out worksheets to students in a Sixth Grade Center classroom.By Gary Weckselblatt

All Sixth Grade Center students are taking part in a four-week vaping/e-cigarette education and prevention program during the month of January.

The core resource of SGC’s program is CATCH My Breath, which was developed by health education experts at the School of Public Health at the University of Texas in Austin. The program’s goal is to prevent the use of electronic cigarettes by students.

Lee Hellinger, a masters-level prevention specialist with the Council of Southeast Pennsylvania, is facilitating the four, 45-minute sessions with support from SGC staff members. Students are participating in the program during their Social Studies classes, one period per week this month.

This program is another in the Quakertown Community School District’s 2019-20 Superintendent Goals to support student safety, security, and wellness.

“Vaping is having such a negative impact as its manufacturers are targeting young people across the nation,” said SGC Principal Eric Thompson. “It is critically important to educate our students as soon as possible so that they know the dangers, the risks and have information. They must have the truth to combat many of the incorrect assumptions.”

Mr. Thompson said that while no SGC student has been found with vaping materials, “we’re not naive to the fact that kids are curious. This is the right age group. Let’s give them a little truth so they can make healthy choices.”

In his first presentation, Mr. Hellinger spoke about ways to recognize how advertizers are marketing to children, misinformation they may have heard and ways to resist peer pressure. They wrote on index cards what they heard about e-cigarettes Students also sat in small groups to research nicotine, formaldehyde and propylene glycol, some of the ingredients found in e-cigarettes.

“My ultimate goal is to let kids know the dangers of e-cigarettes and understand the health consequences of using an e-cigarette,” Mr. Hellinger said. “Education hopefully empowers them to know more and not want to engage in that activity. Hopefully, we’re able to reverse the epidemic that’s out there right now.”

The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania has been a frequent partner with the district when it comes to student health and wellness. QCSD has contracted with the Council for five Student Assistance Program (SAP) counselors, more than any Bucks County District. David Fialko, a certified prevention specialist with the Council, has spoken at Quakertown Community High School about vaping and drug trends in Bucks County.

The district has taken several other steps to ensure a culture of safety, security and wellness.

In December, high school students heard a panel of medical and law enforcement officials discuss the present and future dangers of the youth vaping epidemic.

Elementary school students and their families continue to take part in monthly Family Nights at Quakertown Elementary School in partnership with the Family Service Association of Bucks County to develop. The goal is to help parents of elementary school students build strong relationships with their children. The district has also partnered with Living Strong Consulting, LLC, for a series of workshops on how parents can cope with stress.

In October, Liz Bradbury, director of the Training Institute of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, gave a free, training style presentation for parents and other community members who would like to have a better understanding and become more culturally aware of LGBTQ youth circumstances.

At the August convocation, hundreds of district employees heard Michael Swenson, who teaches the FranklinCovey Institute’s Leader in Me process, talk about trust and positive relationship building.

Mr. Thompson said CATCH My Breath "fits in beautifully with other steps the district is taking."

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.
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