CM students bring senior project to county commissioners

PHOTO PROVIDED/KCSD PHOTO From left are CTC Health Occupations teacher Jennifer Walters, Jeff Snyder, Julia Knarr, Pete Smeltz, Liz Bottorf, and Paul Conklin. SkillsUSA Community Service Team. (Missing is student Avery Mahoney).

By JOHN RISHEL

jrishel@lockhaven.com

LOCK HAVEN — Julia Knarr, Elizabeth Bottorf and Avery Mahoney, senior students at Central Mountain High School, have teamed up with SkillsUSA as part of their senior projects to spread awareness and education of traumatic brain injuries.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel, providing educational programs, events and competitions that support career and technical education in the nation’s classrooms, with a focus on developing leadership abilities amongst students enrolled in trade, industrial, technical and health occupation education.

Though Mahoney was unable to attend, Knarr and Bottorf were given the floor at the work session of the Clinton County Commissioners on Monday morning, as they provided a special presentation to the board.

“A traumatic brain injury can happen anytime a blunt or penetrating object makes contact to the skull. They can change or affect who we are and what we think in a matter of seconds,” Knarr said.

The girls spoke of Jersey Shore area football player Caleb Leone, who suffered a serious injury after a helmet-to-helmet hit during a practice session in August, and how that motivated them to research the subject and start the conversation of awareness and prevention.

“About 85 percent of brain injuries are considered “mild,” with symptoms including headache, dizziness, insomnia or blurred vision,” Bottorf said. “The other 15 percent are considered moderate to severe. With symptoms including slurred speech, persistent headache, or even seizures or going into a coma.”

The girls said that they have been involved in a “string of events” to educate the community, including a “20 Strong Walk”, where proceeds went to the family of Caleb Leone for medical expenses. Other events included an all night volleyball tournament at the high school, and a “teacher dress down day”, where proceeds were donated to the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, 950 Walnut Bottom Rd., Carlisle, and a “Change for Change” program at the Lock Haven Catholic School, 311 W. Water St., Lock Haven, working with the students and donating three books to their library on the subject of brain injury awareness.

The senior project also included giving an Encompass Health bike safety talk, donating equipment to the special education students at CMHS, donating several books on traumatic brain injury to local libraries in the community and running an elementary school “coloring contest,” offering a chance at winning a bike, helmet and skateboard.

“Elementary kids would be a good place to start,” said commissioner Robert “Pete” Smeltz. “They should all be wearing helmets, I know we didn’t when I was young,”

“It has been found that kids that do not have their helmets fitted correctly or are not properly protected can sustain concussions, and that could have an effect later in life,” Bottorf said.

“We hope to have an impact on the community on the importance of awareness. A lot of people were close to Caleb, and it really made everyone aware of these kinds of injuries. He is home now, doing therapy, and slowly progressing,” Knarr said.

“I have had people contacting me, parents telling me that at such a young age that kids should not be playing contact sports and risking that kind of injury,” Smeltz said.

“You see it on TV, on ESPN, the news anchors talking about these football players with long, lingering injuries that seriously effect them. Even riding your bike, or whatever the case is, you always have to be aware to keep your head protected,” added commissioner Paul Conklin.

“We are using this forum to send the message, spread awareness, and start the conversation and I am glad that these girls were able to make it out for this presentation. I want to thank them and thank Jennifer Walters, an advisor for Skills USA and this particular group,” Smeltz said.

For more information on traumatic brain injuries, visit biapa.org, or call the association’s resource line at 1-800-444-6443.

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