Penns Valley

‘Get in the Game’ looks to build community involvement among Penns Valley youth

Team “The Cold Cuts” fires balls at opponents as they move through the dodgeball tournament during the “Get in the Game” at Penns Valley Area High School on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The event featured booths from local organizations to get youth involved, and a dodgeball tournament.
Team “The Cold Cuts” fires balls at opponents as they move through the dodgeball tournament during the “Get in the Game” at Penns Valley Area High School on Saturday, March 21, 2015. The event featured booths from local organizations to get youth involved, and a dodgeball tournament. CDT photo

Byron Hermann, 15, grabbed a yellow ball, and with the stance of a baseball pitcher, threw it at his brother Jordan Hermann.

Jordan, 14, tried to jump over the ball, but it hit him in the right leg. Jordan was out but was able to get back in the game upon his teammate tagging an opposing player.

The brothers were on opposite teams Saturday morning during a dodgeball tournament at Penns Valley Area High School.

The tournament was the final activity for students in the district and other community youth who participated in the inaugural “Get in the Game” event sponsored by the Penns Valley Youth Center, Grace United Methodist Church and the Penns Valley Area School District.

The two-day event began Friday with a mission to show local youth in fifth to 12th grades how they can get involved in the community.

“Fitting in and finding a sense of community isn’t always easy in adolescence, especially in a district made up of small municipalities spread across the valley,” district spokesman Nate Althouse said in an email. “Although social media has the power to bring people closer together, if misused, it also has the power to alienate them.”

“Get in the Game” was started from a conversation between Mark Messner, pastor at Grace United Methodist, and district Superintendent Brian Griffith.

“Looking to find ways to be available to help with any needs the school may have, Mark found out that in a survey taken at the school, students reported a low sense of community involvement and a low religious, faith affiliation,” said Adam Jepson, director of ministries at the church. “When those two things are low, risky behaviors increase.”

Messner then asked Jepson to work on an event that would address those issues.

“Being at a public school, addressing the faith and religious aspect is difficult, but we thought it would be a good idea to hopefully get students plugged in and invested in what’s going on in Penns Valley,” Jepson said. “Since this (was) quite an undertaking, I immediately contacted Darren (Narber) and the Penns Valley Youth Center to see if they wanted to get on board.”

Youth Center program outreach coordinator Keri Miller said it took about three months to plan.

“It was very busy, but when we got here, there was a much larger response than we expected,” Miller said.

She said that more than 320 students — and their families — were in attendance on Saturday.

The program also included 27 organizations, Jepson said.

Each organization was set up at a table in the hallways of the high school, showcasing their services.

Upon arrival to the school Saturday, students were given a passport to track the booths they visited and get a signature of proof from the organizations. Completed passports were entered into a drawing for prizes, including an Xbox and iPad, Althouse said.

The Hermann brothers are both involved in 4-H and FFA but were looking to be more active with other local groups.

“I just think it’s cool that we can see all the options,” said Byron, of Woodward, a sophomore who is home-schooled and has interests in environmental sciences.

Penns Valley Conservation Association environmental educator Jim Flanagan said the association is looking for students — specifically high school aged — to get involved in the organization.

“There is a lot of crossover,” he said. “We focus heavily on the watershed so it’s a way for them to be more community involved, learn about the environment they live in and see how it affects their lives. … We even sometimes see a real passion for this work that can lead them into a career path.”

PVCA regularly works with science classes at Penns Valley Area High School.

Other organizations at the event included the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, Penguins Swim Team, and the Penns Valley 4-H Club.

“Get in the Game” started Friday night with an assembly and introduction of some local organizations.

Penns Valley grad and NFL linebacker Josh Hull was scheduled as the guest speaker but had to cancel due to an emergency appendectomy.

“We hit a couple bumps, but that’s how we work through things to improve on next year,” Althouse said. “We had such a good attendance that we’re going to have to figure out how to make it just as successful next year.”

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