March 09. 2014 9:53PM

Pembroke Academy wants to help at-risk students

Union Leader Correspondent

PEMBROKE — Recent findings indicate one in five students at Pembroke Academy have purposely cut, burned or otherwise hurt themselves within the last 12 months, and additional research indicates roughly the same percentage of PA students have used marijuana in the past 30 days, and another 27 percent have consumed alcohol.

The findings, reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, were generated from anonymous questionnaires administered to high school students across the state in the spring of 2013.

Though Pembroke Academy ranked below most other districts in terms of troubling teenage behavior, PA Headmaster Michael Reardon said school officials take the findings seriously.

“Yes, we are below the state average in a number of areas, but we still have a significant number of our kids having issues, whether it be with depression, cutting themselves or any one of a thousand things adolescents seem prone to,” said Reardon. “Certainly, any community is going to have these issues, so the approach to looking at these statistics can be one of two responses: one, ’we’re not as bad as other communities,’ or two, ’who cares about other communities, these are our kids and we have to find ways to address these issues,’ and we chose number two.”

Pembroke Academy has scheduled a Resources & Education for Adolescent and Community Health (REACH) Community Action Night forum on Thursday, March 20, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the PA auditorium to discuss the study and potential solutions.

REACH is a group organized to maintain and build upon a positive cultural environment in the greater Pembroke area, and Reardon said the district has been holding three or four presentations a year for the last two-plus years to address troubling adolescent behavior.

“The number of students behaving in ways that seriously impact their health and safety is definitely of concern,” he said. “We recognize that bullying, sexual behavior, depression and suicide, self-harm, and alcohol and drug abuse are not unique to PA and are, in fact, societal issues. That is why we feel that it is so important to bring the community together to strategize ways to curb these behaviors and preserve the well-being of our students.”

Reardon said most meetings are typically attended by 40 to 50 parents.

“We felt the subject matter was important enough to stick with it, and we have a core group of parents who have really put a lot of effort into this,” he said. “Basically, we’re just looking for different topics to try to keep the dialogue going with community.

“We’re trying to point parents in the right direction, both in terms of how to address these issues through communication with their kids, and also by providing local resources such as information on local drug or alcohol councilors.”

Admission to the March 20 event is free and open to the public, and all parents, especially those with children in the 10- to 18-year-old range, are encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Reardon at 485-5187.