It Takes a Village

And “it” begins with Communities That Care.

Communities That Care “mobilizer” Christina Valocchi (right) with Robin Marshall, program coordinator at the West Chester CTC.It’s probably no surprise to anyone that teens are easily swayed by their peers when it comes to drugs and underage drinking. But what about family conflict, academic failure and community attitudes toward problem behaviors?

It’s hard for some parents to consider even the obvious, according to Christina Valocchi, who works as a community “mobilizer” in the statewide Communities That Care initiative. CTC is in 47 Pennsylvania counties, focusing on drug- and alcohol-related youth delinquency, violence, teenage pregnancy and school dropout rates. It’s a lot to tackle, but Valocchi—one of seven CTC mobilizers working in school districts in this area—is trained to bring a Peace Corps-like mentality to the job. “Sometimes it’s a matter of learning how to prioritize,” she says.

In the CTC model, no age is too young for prevention, and no child is an island—school, peers, family and community are all involved. An after-school program in Valocchi’s West Chester neighborhood is only one of its kind in the region for middle-schoolers. Called “Beyond the Buzzer,” it’s grounded in an interactive life-skills approach developed by Lions Clubs International. The Great Valley CTC, meanwhile, has an anti-bullying program.

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The custom-made aspect of each CTC is partly based on real and current information drawn from a semi-annual survey students are required to take in each school district. Other data is drawn from Penn State University’s Prevention Research Center and the Chester County Department of Drug and Alcohol Services. “We try to help people understand that raising good citizens is the best prevention tactic there is,” says Valocchi.

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