By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
For the month of April, expect to see blue pinwheels across the Clarkston community.
Clarkston Area Youth Assistance’s “Pinwheels For Prevention” initiative takes over as the organization looks to bring heightened attention to positivity and overcoming adversity, especially among the area’s youth.
Last Tuesday, CAYA kicked off pinwheel month with a ceremony at the Clarkston Community Schools Administration Building. Speakers from CCS included Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan and Director of Equity, Well-Being and Community Partnerships Staci Puzio, while CAYA Pinwheels For Prevention Chairperson Judy Parnes, CAYA Caseworker Lauren Klos and CARE House of Oakland County Prevention Educator and Outreach Facilitator Tonya Womack also spoke to the audience.
“Knowing that there is such an overwhelming need right now to support children, something that’s always existed but seems to have really come to the forefront over the last couple decades, to where us in schools came to that realization through that trying to figure out how to get kids to learn academically,” Ryan said. “For eons, it used to be kids in nice, neat rows, keep your problems on the outside, don’t bring them in the classroom, a teacher regurgitates or professes, students write down, and then move on.
“I think over the years, we started to get a little bit more savvy in looking into what makes kids tick. How can we get improvement academically so they could be the best they could be and we could be the best we could be? When we started to peel back those covers and see the struggles that kids actually brought to school, we came to an understanding of what kids bring into those classrooms. You’re thinking about one out of every 10 kids has been abused in a way, and that blows my mind. If you look at our district and extension campuses and everything else, we service upwards of 10,000 children.”
Parnes noted that, “Each of us can say, ‘I am prevention.’”
According to CAYA, positive relationships with caring adults help young people feel supported and develop resiliency to overcome adversity. CAYA focuses on the importance of building positive relationships with each other throughout the community, especially with youth. A small act of kindness can leave a lasting impact, and you never know when your small act will make a big difference to someone else.
“As we work to address well-being, the whole person, we always turn towards the importance that relationships make,” Puzio said. “Some of the work that we are doing includes the addition of social workers and school psychologists at every single elementary building and our therapy dog program. We get back to service learning because we recognize that it’s important to give back.”
Towards the end of the ceremony, Clarkston preschoolers arrived at the building to start their day. Ryan brought them into the building to greet those in attendance.
“There’s some kind of light that I can’t explain,” Ryan said of the kids. “And anybody in this world that wants to extinguish or mess with that light, I will fight beyond what you can imagine to the last breath I have to find that line where we can support kids to where they can be the next generation, to bring the light out in the next group of kids.”
For the pinwheels initiative, CAYA has varying levels of support, with more information available at caya-mi.org/pinwheels-for-prevention.
PHOTO: From left, Clarkston Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Shawn Ryan, CCS Director of Student Growth, Well-Being, and Community Partnerships Staci Puzio, Clarkston Area Youth Assistance Pinwheels For Prevention Chairperson Judy Parnes, CARE House of Oakland County Prevention Educator and Outreach Facilitator Tonya Womack, and CAYA Caseworker Lauren Klos show off the pinwheels after the CAYA kickoff event March 14 at the CCS Administration Building. Photo: Matt Mackinder