Let’s Talk Vaping

There is no sugar coating the truth: real danger is lurking behind the sleek design and sweet flavors of e-cigarettes. The use of these devices and the vaping trend has been named the most serious adolescent public-health crisis our country has faced in decades.

Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes is the fastest growing trend among teens. According to the 2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey, 1 out of every 4 teens has used a “vape” in the past month. While updated study results will be forthcoming, the rapid growth of this trend suggests that the new numbers will paint an even more harrowing picture for the families in our community.

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Nationwide data and graphic source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

 

At Jenison Public Schools, we are proud to offer a world-class education that prepares students to achieve their goals and chase their dreams. This means that we are focusing on developing the whole child – intellectually, socially, emotionally, and physically. Which is precisely why I feel this topic is well worth the attention. Providing information for our students to make the best choices for today and their future is the right thing to do.

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David Stults developed popcorn lung after exposure to dangerous food chemicals. He is now informing students about the dangers of similar vaping substances.

Partnering with the Jenison Parent Resource Center to inform and educate, Dr. Brandon Graham welcomed speaker and vaping awareness advocate, David Stults. Dave spent the bulk of his day with us for student assemblies that occurred earlier today. There is also a free townhall event for parents this evening who are interested in more information. If you are unable to attend tonight’s event, please reach out to Ottawa Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition for possible upcoming dates.

This is where we need to start – knowledge is power. When you know better, you can do better! This information will be vital in revealing the truth about the results of our students’ choices – and help parents know how to join the conversation.

Student Assembly Today:

Nearly 1,600 students (grades 7, 8, 9 and 10) went to the Jenison Center for the Arts today to participate in a presentation about the unknown truth and major health risks of vaping. Every moment of interruption to their traditional school day is worth the information gained.

David Stults, who is retired from GE became passionate about warning people of vaping dangers after being diagnosed in 2009 with bronchiolitis obliterans, more commonly known as “popcorn lung.’’ This is an incurable and possibly life threatening disease. Dave had been exposed to a chemical that was activated into a vapor during the microwave heating process. This same chemical is now commonly used in vaping products today. Life for Dave might be different today had someone warned against inhaling – or warned that the popcorn contained any hazardous chemicals. He has since become recognized as an expert in the field of vaping and has spoken at dozens of schools and to more than 25,000 students in 2019. His goal is to fight back while informing this generation of students and their parents.

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Stults aims to portray the real-life picture of what the chemicals do. He may look like a healthy person standing before them but he lets students know that their choices could be setting themselves up for an incurable disease with 40% lung capacity sooner than they might think. 

During the presentation, Dave asked 1/3 of the students present to stand. This represents a nationwide average of the students who have vaped. He acknowledges that the students may think this is a fun and social thing to do, but quickly educates that they are voluntarily inhaling and possibly becoming addicted to a deadly cocktail. The chemicals in e-cigarettes plus the nicotine present makes addiction and lifelong bodily harm a very real possibility; and it can happen quicker than you think.

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2017 Ottawa County Youth Assessment Survey. We must change this perception! 

This 1/3 of students standing also contains the students who may be vaping on a regular basis and could already be addicted. Vaping pods have as much nicotine in one pod as 200 regular cigarettes. Which is a staggering number and almost impossible to keep track of. With a regular cigarette, it is lit, smoked and discarded. With the vaping pod, there is no way to know how much is actually being ingested. Every push of the button brings another hit, and when it can be done with minimal disguising effort such as inside the school bathroom or even the classroom – the frequency is likely to be much higher. 

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The numbers of students vaping looks different among the age groups in the assemblies today. The influence of this information among the younger kids will hopefully be strong enough to encourage them to never even try it. The older students may be faced with a different take away – now that you know better, what will you do? If you have students or grandchildren in 7-10th grade, I urge you to ask them what they learned today and open the dialog.

Free Town Hall Tonight:

Tonight, there is a free local town hall that is meant for parents, educators, youth pastors, community members – anyone who works with our youth. A one time presentation from experts like Dave Stults may make an impact on our students, but lasting change comes from continuing the conversation through support and reinforcement at home. As adults, we cannot afford to lack understanding regarding this trend or be flippant about these dangerous choices.

While Dave addressed our students today, he had this to share with parents: if you discover your child is vaping or addicted to vaping, it’s not time for discipline and disappointment, it’s time for connection and support. Help them navigate a life change within a positive environment. While these devices are fairly new, their reach is far and wide and hitting our young people harder than the temptation of the traditional cigarette. Also, far less research has been done on the full affects on the body and the challenge of quitting may be greater. More advice on quitting can be found here.

It really is scary to think of the health issues our students might have to deal with and the path this sort of possible addiction could lead them. I sincerely hope the result of these sessions is less use and a more informed community. Young adults who are able to make healthier choices while encouraging friends with positive influence. As well as a more aware and better informed parent community about the unintended health and addiction consequences that can result from vaping.

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HELPFUL INFORMATION ABOUT VAPING:

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Graphic Source: The Real Cost, US Department of Health and Human Services

 

JPS Partnering with Parents

Our district’s highest priority is the care and education of the children in our community. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by staff that is committed to fulfilling the district’s mission which is, “to ensure that each and every student grows intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially in a safe and caring environment.” Not only do we have the best-of-the-best taking great pride in the curriculum, quality of instruction, extra-curricular activities, and beautiful facilities that are available to support our students; my colleagues are consistently collaborating with each other, and engaging with parents to help children find success now and in the future.

1254344780175e62ac9fd57a668510fa5024ca78Those collaborations can happen by focusing on the school work at hand and beyond. The Jenison Parent Liaison program has provided family unit support for students with a steadfast commitment over the last few years. I’m so excited to see it continue full steam ahead with some very compassionate and enthusiastic people leading the way. As Parent Liaisons representing the Family Resource Center, it is their mission to help families be successful at home so that students can be successful at school.

The Family Resource Center can be of assistance with mental health support, food insecurity and clothing, navigating insurance processes, as well as supporting teachers and families through crisis (death, grief, loss). They also offer programs for homework assistance, leadership and character development. 

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Mary Veldink (left) has been a 3rd grade teacher for 23 years but has been involved with the Jenison Parent Liaison program since its inception. Mary is now a full time Parent Liaison and assists Pinewood Elementary, Sandy Hill Elementary, El Puente, Jenison Junior High, and the JIA. Beth Morey (right) has been with the district for 11 years as a speech pathologist in the ASD program. She is also a fully dedicated Parent Liaison and will now support Bauerwood Elementary, Rosewood Elementary, Bursley Elementary, Jenison High School, and Steam Tech families in her new role. They both support ECC families.

They are so pleased to be able to connect so many families with the resources they need to make life a little smoother. Recently, they saw many community families join for the 7 week ‘Meet up and Eat up’ summer food service program. It was exciting to have numerous high school sports teams also come alongside them and serve food and play with the kids during that time. 

The Family Resource Center was also able to assist with family scholarships for camping vacations at Spring Hill. And when the summer was winding down, they were handing out backpacks and supplies where needed.

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Sue Hetfield and Jodi Huyser, Jenison ECC PreK teachers and ECC Family Outreach leaders were given a match-making vision to change the lives of preschoolers and their families.

I would also like to introduce another program for the PreK families, The ECC Family Outreach. This program came from two very passionate preschool teachers who had a shared vision based on the needs they see everyday. They have worked tirelessly based on the belief that it is essential to make a home-to-school connection as soon as possible. Matching families with resources and making families successful at the beginning of a child’s school experience has the potential to change the trajectory of that child’s life. They are offering monthly sessions to engage with parents regarding topics such has healthy habits, budgeting, outdoor safety, healthy eating and literacy.

The problem solving passion that is behind both the ECC Family Outreach and the Family Resource Center is a strong characteristic of our #BeRelentless community.  I’m proud of the hard work that has transpired to bring our families support when needed. When we’re doing what’s best for our students and families, we can’t go wrong. Please check out some family resources below or ask your school principal to learn more about these programs.

If community members would like to help the Family Resource Center support other Jenison families, there are ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing MinistryOther donations of activity gift cards for families to spend time together on weekends or school holidays are very helpful as well (Rebounderz, Bowling, Movies, Zoo, etc.).

Great Start Parent Coalition Flyer

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NHA Parenting Class Advertisement

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ECC Family Outreach

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Silly Staff Supporting Students

Friday nights are great for family fun around our community, and April 12 was no exception! We have seriously smart educators at JPS who aren’t afraid to let their hair down and get silly for a good cause. Staff members of Sandy Hill and Kids First engaged in a good old fashioned basketball game – along with a few crazy twists. Brandon Graham (principal of the Jenison High School) and I had a great time – not to mention some of the best seats in the house acting as referees for the event.

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The Sandy Hill Hot Shots were really dominating the court until the last minute when the Kids First Krew had a come back and won by 1 point in the end! Families in the stands brought their posters and were cheering alongside the kazoo band. The players persevered through silly antics like playing with oven mitts, dressing up in costumes, swapping the basketball for a football! It was one surprise after another and the energy was high! The students really loved joining the staff on the floor for a full court dance party! The reason behind the fun was to bring awareness to and raise money for the Jenison Parent Liaison program.

140109493dc194d009e64a2e454cedb1ba36ac66.jpg“Our mission is to promote student success by building bridges between home, school and the community. Events like these are so amazing as we see time and time again, the community show up and take care of their own in a big way.” says Mary Veldink, Jenison Parent Liaison. “Funding for our services comes from grant money and the generosity of the community. We are constantly overwhelmed by the support of the community to make a difference for the Jenison families we serve.”

With a donation of nearly $2,000, Sara Melton, Principal of Sandy Hill calls the night a success. “We’re proud to be able to support the Parent Liaison program with this fundraiser as they do so much for the community, including Sandy Hill and Kids First families. We had such a great turnout! It was a tough competition and a fun night!”

If you would like to connect with the Jenison Parent Liaison team, you can learn more here: Meet the Jenison Parent Liaisons and check out their website. They also offer a monthly newsletter that is packed with family resource ideas. Currently, their largest requests have come for food, gas cards and mental health services/counseling. Going strong in their second year, I am incredibly grateful for this connection to our student families and for the loving outreach the Parent Liaison team.


Elise Meeusen – 3rd grader at El Puente, dressed up in her El Puente tee shirt and attended the game with her grandparents. “It was so fun seeing our teachers be so silly! They were playing basketball but shooting tennis balls and footballs – and we still won!”
Maelynn Gamble – 4th grader at Sandy Hill had a great time sitting with her friends Carmen and Harleigh. “I thought it was hilarious when they were trying to play with the tiny tennis ball! It was very funny! I busted out so many moves on the dance floor too. We had a great time!”
Julie Betancourt – Kindergartner at El Puente attended the game with her family.
“I had so much fun cheering for Mr. Gingerich and my teachers! They were doing the silliest things! And I can’t believe Mrs. Giere had to crack an egg on her head!”

Meet Our New Parent Liaisons!

Last school year, veteran Bauerwood teacher, Angela Tracy, had an idea. She wanted to know if there was more that could be done for students and, specifically, their families, who were in need of some extra support, especially if that help meant students would have more success in school.

Ms Tracy wrote a proposal and after some bumps in the road, the Parent Liaison program was born! Ms Tracy, along with part-time help from Pinewood 3rd grade teacher, Mary Veldink, are Jenison’s parent liaison’s and have been excited to get things rolling with this school year. The mission of the program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. But what does that look like?

Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink will meet with parents who are looking for help in making connections with school such as: communicating with teachers/administrators, assisting with meetings at school, Kindergarten orientation, Jr High and High School transitions, parent volunteer opportunities, making calls and home visits,  and connecting parents with each other. If families need assistance connecting to resources outside of school, the parent liaisons are here for them as well! These resources include help with a crisis situation such as a need for food or clothing, housing, help with attendance or tardiness, dealing with a family illness or death, divorce or separation or substance and/or physical abuse.

There are three branches that have taken shape with the program thus far. The first branch is program development where Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink work on developing systems and sustainability. They are developing school-based teams and helping teachers and staff understand their roles. The second branch is administration where they are collecting data and planning for evaluation of the program. Finally, the third branch is case management where they are meeting with Jenison families [15 so far this year] and connecting them to health insurance, housing and food resources, and support organizations such as Ele’s Place and Gilda’s Club.

Ms Tracy says, “The JPS mission statement is “All students will grow intellectually, emotionally and socially while becoming lifelong learners”. The parent liaison program arose out of recognizing the need and desire to help families to create homes that encourage growth and learning and I was finding more and more kids coming to school — and their families who were in need of support.”

Other Ottawa County schools have already launched similar programs including Holland, Zeeland, Coopersville and Grand Haven is in the process.

“It’s been really encouraging for Mary and I when families get connected with the right resources. They’re encouraged and feel supported.”

If you would like to reach out to one of our Parent Liaisons on behalf of your family, they invite you to email them:
Angela Tracy: atracy@jpsonline.org [Bauerwood, Sandy Hill, Rosewood, ECC, JIA, and Jenison High School]
Mary Veldink: mveldink@jpsonline.org [Pinewood, Bursley, and Jenison Junior High]

Thank you to Ms Tracy and Ms Veldink for coming alongside all families and students in Jenison and helping to ensure that all students can come to school ready to learn!

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