In proving that it takes a village to raise a child, Octorara School District officials have been learning about various community-based programs that would help to provide all students with essential life skills.

This week, at a meeting of Octorara Communities that Care (CTC), CTC was scheduled to have a special presentation about the New Life Truancy Prevention Program.

According to Danielle Salada, community outreach director for the Octorara YMCA, New Life takes a therapeutic/holistic approach by offering therapy with students and their families. They have provided services for students in grades sixth through ninth, and are expanding their services in Chester County. Through data collection, they are recognizing an 82 to 85 percent improvement in attendance.

"New Life is finding that more schools are recognizing the need to deal with truancy, which has been a taboo topic and not always addressed as directly as it could be," said Salada.

New Life has formed a partnership with many school districts throughout Chester County. The purpose of CTC's presentation was for school district officials and community members to hear the opportunities on how this partnership can work in the Octorara Community.

Salada, as CTC director and community outreach director for the Octorara YMCA, works closely with the school district on developing programs to address issues affecting students. When asked if truancy was a problem at Octorara, Salada said it wasn't as big of a problem that it once was, but that the New Life program could still be a benefit to the school district.

The New Life program wasn't the first program school officials heard about. Earlier this school year they attended an informational session about Lions-Quest, a character-building program of the Lions Club's International Foundation.

Lions-Quest would be done in partnership with the Parkesburg and Christiana Lions Clubs. According to Salada, who is a member of the Parkesburg Lions Club, Lions-Quest is a character development program with components for students in kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grades, middle school and high school.

"The curriculum deals with community service and touches a little on drug and alcohol use prevention," she said.

According to a fact sheet about Lions-Quest, the three components of the program are broken down by age group - Skills for Growing for kindergarteners through fifth grade; Skills for Adolescence for sixth through eight grade students, and Skills for Action, for high school students.

While having different components, all three of the programs teach young people the skills they need for everyday living: learning to accept responsibility, communicating effectively, setting goals, making healthy decisions and resisting pressure to use alcohol or drugs.

The Lions Clubs would be involved in that they can help young people implement a community service project or by providing financial support for training or materials.

It's been a couple of months since the presentation about Lions-Quest was made to school officials and Salada said it was still in the discussion phase with the discussions centering on implementation.

"We're looking at implementing it as part of the after school program," she said, adding that there wasn't funding available to start up any new programs and the teachers' school day is already "so jammed pack that doing it as part of the school day would not be feasible."

The local Lions Clubs (Parkesburg and Christiana) are already involved with the school district in that they sponsor a student of the month at the high school and also award scholarships.

Not related to the Lions-Quest program, high school principal Scott Rohrer recently received approval from the school board for two faculty members to serve as advisors for a new Character Club being implemented at the high school level. When contacted by the Post Ledger last week, Rohrer said the first meeting was scheduled for Dec. 7, at which time they would have an idea as to what the club will be modeled like.

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