PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – They became known as Generation C – you may know them as your own sons or daughters – young children and adolescents whose lives have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
You may have noticed that they have become more tense, anxious, or depressed and unable to cope with the demands of family life and school. More turned to drugs, violence and even suicide.
At Linton High School in Penn Hills counselor Mary Wakefield leads a class called New Direction. Earlier, students who got into trouble due to fights or failures, went to the principal’s office. Now they are sent to the New Direction class.
“You have stress, anxiety,” she said. “You have a lot of things going on with these students.”
A sixth-grader named Chase is one such student. He fell behind in his studies after a year of hybrid and virtual learning.
Chase: It was bad.
Chase: It’s hard to do work at home. I get a lot of distractions when I’m in my house.
Another student named Devon suffered a difficult re-entry to school due to a brawl.
“People who talk about me drive me crazy,” he said. “I’m angry – quarrels and stuff.”
Wakefield said not only was their classroom training a little rusty.
“They don’t know how to communicate like before,” she said. “Their scientists are far behind. That’s why it’s very important for them to be in class and study because it’s affected them so much.”
To keep students in school, New Direction has three classrooms – a darkened quiet room for reassurance; a private room where they can receive individual attention, and a group room where they discuss how best to deal with the world.
“When we’re here, we’re trying to get you to reconsider your decisions,” Wakefield told students. “If you’ve made a bad decision, we’re trying to make you think about how you can change it and make a good decision.”
Mental health is a problem of the whole district. In the entrances, traditional guards are replaced by a team of youth specialists. They intercede in any fights and offer on-site counseling to students who want attention and are in dire need of some assurance.
“Many of them approach my team (and ask, ‘Can I talk to you?’)” Said engagement specialist Bill Dilly. “A lot of them come up and start crying because of the different problems they have. It’s largely based on the pandemic we’re going through.”
Penn Hills superintendent Nancy Hines put parts of the team in place before the pandemic in response to gunfights and violence. She said educators need to dig deeper, addressing the entire student.
“We are going to save this generation,” she said. “There is simply no alternative answer. We have to do it. Whatever we need, we have to step up.”
United Pulse Community Pulse Report
Safe 2 Say Anything: 1-844-723-2729
Crisis Services 24/7: 888-796-8226
Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255
Suicide prevention text line: send the text “HOME” to the number 74174
Crisis Line of the Victims Center 24/7: 1-866-644-2882
Trans Lifeline hotline 24/7: 877-565-8860
Trevor Project for LGBTQIA Youth + 24/7 Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
Trevor project for LGBTQIA youth +: send the text “START” to the number 678678
PAAR (Pittsburgh Actions Against Rape): 1-866-363-7273
Upstreetpgh.org for teens 12-22 years old to talk.
*** Call 911 in case of immediate security or crisis ***