The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

WHS students take on role of health mentors


Students at Wahkiakum High School are being trained to be health mentors throughout the community.

The training is the result of a state funded program, said Chris Bischoff, director of the county health department, at the Tuesday meeting of the board of county commissioners.

"We've found the high school is the best place to start," he said.

Eight students are receiving training to answer simple questions and offer basic advice to people with health questions.

"These students have lots and lots of potential," commented Public Health Nurse Danelle Barlow. "These guys think outside the box."

The students meet one hour a week before school with the public health nurse to receive training and address issues among students.

The students have found their peers are often unaware of basic health, gender relationships, and legal matters.

They also felt that girls have had much better health education than the school's boys.

Two boys were among a group of mostly girls who had a training on relationships led by staff of the Charlotte House Domestic Violence Center. They were unaware of the ramifications of using social media to send nude photos to other students; that that action could lead to arrest and conviction as a sex offender.

Social media use has been a recent focus, students said.

One big issue is, "Not knowing consequences of having pictures of themselves on social media," Charlie Ashe said.

Basic sex education is also lacking, said Gracie Thomas. "I have peers that don't know how they can get pregnant."

Vaping is also spreading among high school students at all grades, said Kayla Bowcutt.

The student leadership team worked hard to address bullying last year, the students said, but it continues on social media.

The three students who visited the commission meeting offered different views about safety at the high school.

Ashe said she would like to see doors secured and monitored, but a poll of members of the school leadership class showed a majority of respondents felt doors should remain unlocked.

"I feel safe at school," Thomas said. "I feel our teachers would do everything they could to keep us safe.

Bowcutt said she had moved to Wahkiakum from a large school in Portland, where security was tight. Students may feel like they know each other well at WHS, she said, but individuals may just be putting on a face, and one doesn't know them really well.

Students also receive training in how to respond to people who may be ready to harm themselves, Bischoff said.

"We also have a full time therapist working in the school," he said. "We have program funding to put people in the school. We're pretty lucky at Wahkiakum."


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