Whitehall-Yearling High School students heard a message last week that the school's resource officer says was well-received -- and it's a message he plans to build on.
Officer Mark Showalter presented a Youth Violence Awareness program to freshmen, sophomores and juniors Feb. 21.
Showalter reached out to numerous people in Whitehall, all of whom volunteered to speak to students during a 90-minute assembly.
"My goal was to get kids to rethink acting out in a violent manner," Showalter said.
In most instances, Showalter said, such violence is exhibited by juveniles shoving or throwing punches.
"I think kids are a little quick to throw a punch about almost anything, (and this program) was meant to make students stop and think, is it really worth it ... and how (acting out) can change your life in so many ways," Showalter said.
Among the speakers was an employer from a major retail store who spoke about harassment in the workplace and how criminal records can cause problems with obtaining and keeping jobs.
Two physicians also spoke to students about the kinds of trauma violence can cause.
"There is a physical danger to violence," Showalter said. "The physicians talked to students about the short-term and long-term injuries that can be sustained from fights, especially those that are violent."
City Attorney Michael Bivens spoke to students about the criminal and even civil consequences that can arise from assaults and other acts of violence.
"Getting into fights can result in an arrest, a permanent record or a civil action against you," Bivens said.
Showalter said he was pleased with the support he received when pitching the idea to others.
"Everyone was all in," he said.
"I think the students understood the message. There are consequences to what they do. I think (the program) is another tool in the tool box to help them make better decisions," Showalter said.
Superintendent Brian Hamler said the students benefit from school resource officers who go the extra mile.
"We are fortunate to have school resource officers who go beyond keeping us safe. Our police department and the SROs work to educate students about making good choices on a daily basis," Hamler said.
"This assembly was coordinated by (Showalter) who had the idea of designing a speaker event to bring awareness of the negative impacts of physical violence," he said. "School climate is very important to us and, although fights are not commonplace in our schools, educating students about the impact they have on our schools, our community and individual homes is a good idea."