Real Life … Teen Choices coming to PCIS

By Sam Wildow -

PIQUA — Piqua Central Intermediate School will be bringing in a new, week-long program for sixth grade students to help them deal with issues affecting today’s teens.

“It’s a new program this year,” PCIS school nurse Michelle McNeil said about Real Life … Teen Choices, a program under Ohio’s Family and Youth Initiatives.

The program will start Monday, Feb. 26, and run through Friday, March 2. The second week of the program will be March 19-23.

“It teaches about internet safety and bullying safety and how to be a friend,” McNeil said. She added, “It’s about teaching kids how to make good choices, how to make friends.”

It is something that the school has been looking at for some time, McNeil said. They went to a neighboring school district to see the program in action.

“They talk about things that address the issues of today,” McNeil said. She added, “It tries to teach our children about making good life choices and what those outcomes can be.”

Real Life … Teen Choices was recently approved by the district’s curriculum director for PCIS, and they are continuing to work on possibly implementing that program in the high school.

“We actually teach in six counties here in Ohio,” Real Life … Teen Choice Program Director Wendy Gerstner, SRAS, said. Those counties include Clark, Greene, Champaign, Logan, Shelby, and Miami.

Gerstner added that they teach in approximately 50 middle and high schools, including Tipp City, Troy Junior High, and Miamisburg. “We’ve been doing this since 1997 as far as teaching in public schools and even in private schools,” she said.

The goal of the program is to “empower youth to make better life decisions,” Gerstner said. “We cover topics that teenagers face in today’s culture,” shesaid.

The topics are age-appropriate, as the program teaches a variety of age groups from sixth grade to high school ages. The program also utilizes abstinence teaching models like the Abstinence and Marriage Curriculum by Scott Phelps.

At PCIS, Gerstner explained that, in terms of teaching about sex and abstinence, they will not be teaching students anything involving anatomy, sexually transmitted infections, or topics along those lines due to the students’ young ages. She said that they will provide facts about teen pregnancy without going into it and they will also address sexting.

“It’s in every school,” Gerstner said. “I’ve seen it in all six counties.”

Other topics include bullying, social media, internet usage, and cell phone usage.

“A lot of it has to do with making choices with at-risk behaviors,” Gerstner said. Their program will focus on character-building, integrity, how to know someone is a good friend and how to be a good friend, and healthy relationship choices, and so on. They will also teach the students refusal skills, such as how to say no to drinking and drugs in tough situations.

“The refusal skills is a big deal in sixth grade,” Gerstner said.

The program also uses a “whole person approach” when teaching to help the kids think about the different outcomes of their choices.

“We look at it as a whole … all of these choices that we make affect our whole body,” Gerstner said.

The program also keeps the parents aware of what the kids are learning each day.

“Everything we do is really involved with the parents,” Gerstner said. “We want to partner with the parents. We don’t want to take away from the parents.”

When they send kids home with a worksheet, they will have to have their parents sign it. “That’s a great opening for parents to teach their values on this subject,” Gerstner said.

The program also aims to help the students create goals for themselves as they get older. “Goal-setting is a huge one. We do goal-setting with all age groups,” Gerstner said. They talk with the students about where they want to see themselves when they are 16 years old and so on.

“Students with goals tend to do better than student who don’t have goals,” Gerstner said.

When asked about the response they have gotten to the program, Gerstner said, “It’s overwhelmingly been positive.” She added, “The students are excited for us to come back in after they’ve had it.”

Gerstner also said a sixth grade student at another school summed the program up as the instructors making “an awkward subject less awkward.”

The overall goal is to help build the kids up and help be a tool for parents to start conversations at home about these topics.

“It’s all about them becoming them the best versions of themselves that they can be,” Gerstner said.

By Sam Wildow

Reach Sam Wildow at or (937) 451-3336

Reach Sam Wildow at or (937) 451-3336