Attitudes: Positive in, negativity out
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS A meeting held in Lehighton to discuss inspiring positive attitudes and how to provide more activities and facilities for the youth of the community is attended by, seated l-r, J. J. Cleaver, superintendent of schools in the Lehighton Area School District; George Kogut, Lehighton borough council member who served as moderator; Pastor Keith House of Christ Evangelical Free Church in Mahoning Township; back l-r, Gary Laible, youth pastor of Christ Evangelical Free Church; Brenda Koons, Lehighton borough secretary; Grant Hunsicker, president of Lehighton Borough Council, and Scott Rehrig, a borough council member.
A meeting called by a Lehighton Borough Council member last week was promoted as one in which youths could attend and vent their frustrations, suggestions, praise, or complaints regarding the borough and its available resources for them.
No youths attended, which was both a good thing and a bad thing.
The councilman, George Kogut, said he was hoping some young people would be present to provide input.
Pastor Keith House and Youth Pastor Greg Laible, both of Christ Free Evangelical Church in Mahoning Township, said they intend on inviting youth group members to future meetings, but for now they are interested in developing a plan regarding how to provide more activities and facilities for younger members of the community.
Also in attendance were J. J. Cleaver, superintendent of schools in the Lehighton Area School District; Grant Hunsicker, Lehighton Borough Council president; Scott Rehrig, a council member; and Brenda Koons, borough secretary.
Kogut served as moderator of the session and listed the general theme is: "Positive Attitude In - Negativity Out."
"The reason we're here is because we see negativity in the community," said Kogut. He told how he experiences it when he goes running. "When I'm out there running, people will yell things to me, sometimes rude remarks."
He added, "The question is, how do we go about changing that attitude?"
The councilman told the gathering, "We should be able to put something together; a game plan, to create positive attitudes."
He told how he had lived in New Jersey amid various cultures, religions, and races and he saw how people in the community worked together.
"They seem to bring all their backgrounds together and it works," Kogut said.
He added that in the Lehighton area, the borough, school district, and churches all have resources to apply to this goal.
"The goal is to entice people to want to work for the community; to be a part of the community," he remarked.
House asked Hunsicker, a lifelong resident of Lehighton, what changes he has seen over the years in the community.
Hunsicker said that at one time, every school building had a basketball court.
"Kids were on the courts all the time, day and night," he said. "Now we only have one basketball court." That court is at the Community Grove.
Kogut agreed, stating, "When I was growing up we were all out playing baseball, basketball, football. Thirty to 40 kids. Now you can count on one hand how many you see playing."
Cleaver said a big change in youths is the communication by electronics. He said he attends sporting events and sees youths in the audience talking to individuals sitting next to them on the telephone.
Another thing Cleaver has observed is that many grandparents are raising children, and it gets too cold for the grandparents to attend outdoor events with the youngsters.
Also, "We have kids 13, 14, 15 years old and they're the baby sitter."
He said one of the things the school district is considering is opening the schools in the evening for computer classes for parents and grandparents, hoping this will inspire better communication between the generations.
Kogut said he has spoken with Tom Evans, Recreation Director in Lehighton, and they have discussed opening the Community Center for academic reasons, such as allowing youngsters to come there and do their homework. He said the potential exists of getting tutors at the Community Center to assist the youths.
"I just think there are avenues we can take where we can reach these kids," he said.
Laible commented, "We must help people see that there is always hope, there is always a place they can reach out for help."
He added that the efforts cannot be just providing additional sports and recreational opportunities, but must also focus on academic help.
"Where do we go from here?" asked Kogut.
House suggested that more meetings be held by the committee before youths are asked to attend.
A suggestion by Cleaver was that surveys be done among young people to help determine both needs and what future stops should be taken to address them.