Memories, trust are the catches of the day at Valley High School
Gileyla Jones smiled broadly at Monday morning's DARE to fish day at Valley Junior Senior High School in New Kensington.
"I love to fish and I love monitoring," said Jones, a senior at Valley planing to major in criminal justice at Clarion University with an eye to enlisting in the Pennsylvania State Police. She has already enlisted in the Army National Guard. A few feet away, 22 Roy Hunt Elementary School 4th graders were using donated rods, reels and bait so they could experience fishing hands-on. Jones and other upperclassmen, like senior Alexia Fularz and junior Jay Jackson, were there to show students how to put the bait on the hook, cast, hook and reel in fish.
Large rainbow trout were stocked in the section of Little Pucketa Creek in front of the high school. Planners said 95 trout were lurking in the creek. It's all part of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program in the school district.
Arnold and New Kensington police departments teach DARE, a national program that was revived in the district.
The Alle-Kiski Health Foundation and New Kensington's Seventh Street Sportsman Club donated to the event. Also, New Kensington resident Jeff Concoly, a district parent, donated bait.
"I was glad to help," he said, watching the young anglers select neon Power Bait or red worms.
"The second annual fishing derby doesn't have any prizes except the smiles on the student faces and a chance to experience something new for most of them," Superintendent John Pallone said. The school's culinary staff filleted, cooked and served the trout that were caught.
One of the first trout netted was a 13- to 14-inch rainbow caught by Jacob Hilty of New Kensington.
"Throw it back," he said when asked by the student mentors if the fish should swim away or be put on ice.
"I haven't been fishing in a long time, but I like it," said Hilty, who said he likes math and gym.
Hilty said he is part of a catch and release family and he was happy to let someone else catch the fish.
New Kensington Officer Joe Locke, the in-school officer, watched.
"I don't know who is more excited. The kids or me," Locke said. "Even when I see kids years later at a store or restaurant they remember us and say hello."
"This is about interactions with the kids," said Arnold police Chief Eric Doutt. "We build relationships and they remember it. This is really community policing," he said during National Police Week.
Arnold officers are urged to walk through schools when possible and even to have lunch with students to get to know them. "That way, when the youth have problems, they know someone to turn to. Someone to help," he said.
"It's really fun," said Rowan Kiley, a fourth-grader from New Kensington. An immense smile beamed from the girl with sequined T-shirt, who was all business about fishing. "I've been fishing before and it's really fun. My family fishes and goes camping," she said. Valley High Principal Pat Nee said the school is seeking a grant to have Valley students raise trout. That will teach them about ecology and conservation and the fish would be used for the DARE fishing event, he said.
"This opens up kids to opportunities most of them aren't used to," said Todd Kutchak, Roy Hunt Elementary assistant principal.
Senior Jahaun Hughes of Arnold likes fishing and helping youngsters.
"I've fished with my dad and granddad," said Hughes, who has been admitted to Lincoln University, near Harrisburg, in the fall. "I plan on majoring in psychology and teaching," she said.
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4711, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ChuckBiedka.