PUNXSUTAWNEY — Sally Villella is running for a seat on the Punxsutawney Area School Board.
The following statement was submitted to The Spirit:
“Hello. My name is Sally Villella, and I am asking you to vote for me, for a seat, on the Punxsutawney Area School Board. I believe I would be a wonderful addition, bringing the perspective of one who has over 40 years of experience in the social service field.
“Punxsutawney area schools serve over 1,800 students, from kindergartners to seniors, representing a variety of interests, skills and abilities. A diverse group indeed, yet they share common needs — the need to be seen, the need to be heard, the need to be valued. In light of the fact that they spend seven hours a day at school, that task falls upon the faculty and staff. These are the ones who also enter the doors every day ensuring our students have a safe, clean, healthy environment in which to learn, a place where all are seen, heard and valued.
“The alarming increase in mental health struggles among children and teens is well documented. Throughout the decade prior to the pandemic, self-reported feelings of persistent sadness and helplessness increased by about 40 percent among youth. The isolation and academic disruption during the years of the pandemic served to increase incidence of both anxiety and depression. Schools are a key component in providing positive support in reaching out and helping those students who are struggling. For many, school adds an extra layer of support; for others, the time at school is the best seven hours of their day.
“Meeting these social and emotional needs is a vital step toward academic achievement and success. Again that task falls upon the shoulders of our faculty and staff members, the ones who show up everyday, bringing with them a wealth of strategies and skills and a commitment to care about the students and invest in their success. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. For the past 26 years, I have worked in the schools as a provider of behavioral health rehabilitative services (what is often called a “TSS” or “wraparound”). As numerous are the challenges, the positives, the successes are far greater. We can all be proud of the dedication our staff has toward creative ways of meeting the needs of our students, valuing each child and certainly going above and beyond what is required.
“I believe it is our task as a community to join in, working together with our schools to support positive social, emotional and academic growth and success for our youth. I know, as I have seen it in my line of work, when we all come to the table, listen to and value one another’s ideas and opinions, no matter how varied, we can do hard things. When we are all focused on achieving a common goal — in this case, helping our children acquire the life skills needed to enjoy the future as healthy, happy, productive adults — we can do great things. The impossible becomes possible.
“If you are still with me at this point, thank you for your time and attention. You know where my heart lies, as my life’s work has been focused on children and adolescents. I grew up in Punxsutawney and am a graduate of PAHS (1975). I attended Indiana University of PA and have a B.S. in Psychology, B.S. in Sociology and graduate-level certification in education. Currently, I am employed at CORE Psychiatric & Psychological Services. I believe that I have the heart and the head to help us achieve the goal of providing our children the best possible foundation for success in their lives. I would appreciate your support — write in Sally Villella on your ballot on May 16, 2023.”