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North Hills

Program helps North Hills students 'Focus on the Future'

| Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 2:57 p.m.
Ross Township police gave an eye-opening Distracted Driving presentation t in the auditorium of the high school.
Ross Township police gave an eye-opening Distracted Driving presentation t in the auditorium of the high school.

North Hills School District picked up the tab for every one of its nearly 700 sophomores and juniors to take either the PSAT or the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam during the school day Oct. 11.

“We do this because we want to give all our 10th- and 11th-graders a glimpse of the possibilities for their future,” said Dr. David Barkovich, dean of academic affairs at the school.

About 3.5 million students across the country take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT), a standardized test administered by the College Board as a primer for the SAT exam, which is widely used for college admissions each year. The ASVAB is a multiple choice test used to determine qualification for enlistment in the United States Armed Forces. Typically, the PSAT costs about $16 per student; the ASVAB is free.

While the tests were being administered during the morning hours, freshmen and seniors participated in a variety of presentations and classes to strengthen their mental and physical well being. Every student in grades nine through 12th participated in additional sessions conducted in the afternoon.

The day-long event was called “Focus on the Future Day.”

“We wanted to provide students with a variety of skills that can lead towards more positive outcomes when dealing with the 21st Century,” Barkovich said.

Students were introduced to a new career and college website/app called SCOIR, which matches their personal traits with career and college paths.

They also attended a financial literacy presentation led by NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization with the mission of financial empowerment. The workshop covered topics like budgeting, financial goal-setting, saving, credit, and anti-predatory lending.

Members of the school's physical education and health department taught students useful yoga techniques to help lower stress.

“The breathing and meditation also helps slow the brain down so students can focus on self,” said physical education teach Jill Makula.

She also taught students simple self-defense tactics.

“You don't have to be stronger (than the assailant), just smarter,” she instructed. “Use your elbows; they're sharp. If you're being dragged away, drop to the ground and become dead weight. Throw a temper tantrum. One woman was being attacked and she screamed animal noises as loud as she could. The attacker got so annoyed, he let her go.”

An opioid awareness workshop was led by the PA Attorney General's Office, and a presentation by the Ross Township police enlightened students to the dangers associated with distracted driving.

“Four thousand teens die in car accidents each year,” said Ross Township police Officer Mike Thomas. “Two-thirds of these accidents do not involve alcohol. Cell phones, peer pressure, passengers. These all contribute to distracted driving.

“We want to change kids' mindset to become responsible drivers. We also want them to be responsible passengers. That means telling the driver to slow down if they're going too fast, turning down the radio if it's too loud, and being sure everyone is wearing their seat belt,” he added.

Students were overwhelming positive in their feedback about “Focus on the Future Day.”

“There were some topics related to financial literacy that I've always wondered about and so it was very helpful to be able to ask our own questions during the presentation. The distracted driving presentation was not only informational, but impactful as well, since the speaker had lost her own son to a distracted driver. Hopefully it influences drivers to make good choices,” said senior Elizabeth Ashoff.

“The SCOIR training was the most helpful, as I want to be very informed about the many aspects of college admissions,” added junior Morgan Stone. “Since we're getting to the age of driving, the distracted driving was very important, as well. I've seen firsthand how teenagers can get distracted with friends in the car. The speaker's personal story really drew us all in and hit close to home.”

Laurie Rees is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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