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Hastings Working Alliance for Youth Finds New Ways to Reach Parents

COVID-19 has hampered some traditional outreach methods but a local organization is still working to raise awareness about issues of importance to parents of teens.

The Hastings Working Alliance for Youth (WAY) is an organization of committed citizens and parents of Hastings-on-Hudson who aim to reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other harmful substances amongst the youth in the village. This past month, the Hastings WAY presented parents with a free handbook to address some of the issues facing their children.

The Parent Handbook, was produced by Operation PARENT, a non-profit organization that educates parents through resources such as webinars and guidebooks, and delves into current trends and misconceptions. The purchase and mailing of these handbooks were funded through a federal grant in cooperation with the Hastings-on-Hudson School District.

Linda Fosina, coalition coordinator of the Hastings WAY, helped organize and distribute the parent handbooks to the community. Working with Director of Youth Services and Chair of the Hastings WAY Joann Reed-Stokes, Fosina intends to keep the flow of information constant even amidst these challenging times.

“It is just another way to educate parents during the pandemic,” she said.

“It has certainly made us be creative in how we reach out.”

The Hastings WAY recently joined forces with 19 other Westchester County organizations geared toward educating parents and protecting their children during the pandemic to form the Knowledge Network of Westchester (K.N.O.W). Their activities have consisted of the K.N.O.W 2 Prevent series, free virtual learning sessions where parents can engage with experts on issues facing their children and build essential tools to approach them.

The monthly series has held in-depth discussions on issues such as the youth vaping epidemic and ways to promote healthy decisions. Fosina said the series, which made its debut in September, draws a sizable audience of more than100 people each session, which has increased the level of outreach among community members.

“It’s much better than the audience we would get in an in-person event,” she said.

“Even after the pandemic we have decided this is a great thing to continue.”

Fosina said that although times have been tough, it has led to local organizations coming together rather than focusing on their respective communities and branching out to all Westchester parents as a group.

“I’ve really enjoyed combining with other coalitions that have the same mission,” she said.

“I don’t know if we would have thought of this given other circumstances.”

The next K.N.O.W 2 Prevent session is scheduled for December 7th focusing on the mental health of teens during the pandemic features Michael Orth, commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health, and Dr. Andrew Ecker, the coordinator of Guidance & Child Study Center at Putnam | Northern Westchester BOCES. Fosina said though it is the last one of the year, there are more planned for the future.

“We plan to continue it next year,” she said. “Hopefully, as people hear of it, the numbers will continue to grow.”

You can register for the next K.N.O.W 2 Prevent session here.