Youth

Distracted driving – simulator teaches safety behind the wheel

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With no warning, a car strays into the neighboring lane. “Is this not Bowling Green,” said Sandy Wiechman, Wood County Safe Communities coordinator. “You really have to pay attention.” The driver manages to avoid a collision, but seconds later, a dog runs into the street. She slams on the brakes, but it’s too late. “She just killed a dog,” Wiechman said. In this instance the dog and the driver are fine, since the crash occurred on Wood County Safe Communities’ distracted driving simulator. The simulator gives drivers an idea of the distractions out on the road, without the threat of injuries. The “driver” sits behind the steering wheel, with control of the wheel, the gas pedal and the brake. But there is much the driver has no control over. “You’ve got distractions all over the place,” Wiechman said. There’s a soccer ball that rolls out on the street, fire trucks approaching, construction cones, sun glaring into the windshield, school buses stopping, dogs and cats dashing into the road, pedestrians and bicyclists. And then there are the distractions inside the vehicle. There’s an annoying passenger who keeps asking the driver to make a call or text for him. In Wood County, about 4.5 percent of car crashes are blamed on driver distraction. In 2017, drivers reported the following distractions: Cell phone, 25; texting or emailing, 5; other electronic communication device, 7; electronic devices such as navigation devices, DVD player or radio, 39; others inside the vehicle, 99; and external distractions outside the vehicle, 84. Wiechman said the distractions go far beyond texting. Some people try eating lunch, check out the neighbor’s yard, or look to see if they know the bicyclist as they pass. “I refuse to do it just on texting. There are just so many things that can happen,” she said. “You never know when a kid is going to dart out into traffic,” Wiechman said. “One time can ruin your life and someone else’s life.” Even conversation in the car can be distracting. “You just have to pay 100 percent attention,” she said. It isn’t long before the “driver” is cut off by another car, swerves to avoid that vehicle and then hits an oncoming vehicle head-on. The simulator screen then gives the driver a view of the EMS crew standing over as an air ambulance lands nearby. The driving simulator is more important now, Wiechman said, since schools no long offer drivers education, and most students take driving classes online. “They think they are more in control than they really are,” she said. The simulator can also be used to show drivers the challenges of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “It simulates drunk for you,” Wiechman said. After the motorist crosses into oncoming traffic, a police officer pulls the car over and asks for a driver’s license. Upon smelling alcohol in the car, the officer then asks the driver to exit the vehicle to do a field sobriety test. The driving simulator was purchased in 2017 with donations from the Bowling Green Dancing with the Stars event and from the Rossford Police Department. “We’ve been using it non-stop since,” Wiechman said. “This is just invaluable to me.” The simulator is usually used with students…

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Kids beef up their skills raising livestock for county fair

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Months of wrangling hefty cows, getting up for early morning swine feedings, and coaxing obstinate goats may pay off this week for kids showing their livestock at the Wood County Fair this week. As adults were setting up carnival rides and food stands Sunday in the front of the Wood County Fairgrounds, kids were getting their livestock ready to show. Kassie Fintel, 17, has been building a relationship with Tot, an 800-pound beef feeder, since February to prepare him for the fair. Basically, it comes down to teaching some manners to Tot (whose twin is of course named Tater). “It’s so much work,” said Fintel, who goes to Bowling Green High School. “It’s countless hours every summer.” In addition to the feeding and cleaning of stalls, Fintel spent quite a bit of time walking Tot. “We have to walk them or they won’t be broken for the fair,” she said as she nudged Tot into position. During judging, Tot will be asked to show that he can raise his feet when tapped with a stick, set his feet square, stand quietly in the ring, and walk without running. “Basically, manners,” Fintel said. At that moment, Tot decided to ignore Fintel and instead chew on a ribbon tacked to the fair pen. “I love his personality,” Fintel said. “He’s such a little dog basically. He doesn’t realize how big he is.” Fintel also shows her quarter horse, Tuck, at the fair. That is less of a challenge since she and Tuck have been partners for years. “My horse has been trained, and we know what we’re doing,” Fintel said. At the barn next door, goats were being weighed in for the week. Though many of the animals showed reluctance to comply with their owners’ wishes, the goats clearly won the prize for being the most ornery. Mason Roe, 11, of Weston, was waiting with his goats, Trixie and Scarlett – neither who were particular about the spellings of their names. “They’re funny,” Roe said. “They walk and jump.” Like the other kids at the fair, Roe has spent months feeding, cleaning, shaving and walking his goats. He found that the pair had a fondness for eating corn. However, since goats bloat up with too much corn, he usually feeds Trixie and Scarlett specialty feed and hay. His goats weighed in at 102 and 80 pounds – making that training component so very important. “I hope they don’t fight with me,” while being shown, Roe said. In the rabbit and poultry barn, Emma Meek, 12, of Grand Rapids, and Addysen Limes, 12, of Weston, talked about their labor of love with livestock. “It’s a lot of commitment,” said Limes, who has meat chickens, pullets and market ducks at the fair. Meek has swine and beef cattle. “Mine is easier than Emma’s. She has to pull around cattle,” Limes said. Meek, however, had developed a strategy with her pig and cattle. “Both my animals love marshmallows and cucumbers,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s bribery,” but it has helped with behavioral issues. Limes also learned a secret to fattening up her chickens. “You have to keep a light on at night so they keep eating,” she said. Limes has also learned the value of frequently…


Weighty issues – county citizens getting fatter & sadder

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County residents have gotten fatter and sadder in the last three years. The latest Community Health Assessment results for Wood County adults show growing numbers of people carrying around extra weight physically and mentally. Nearly 40 percent of local adults classify themselves as obese, while another 33 percent say they are overweight. A total of 14 percent of adults reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more consecutive weeks. The surveys are conducted every three years by the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. “We can be confident that this is pretty accurate,” Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey said earlier this week. A total of 1,200 adult surveys were mailed out to randomly selected residences. In order to be statistically accurate, 383 responses were needed. A total of 431 adults responded. The youth surveys fared even better, since they were conducted at schools. The health survey process began in 2008 – which allows the health department make comparisons to past health data. “How are we trending? Are we getting better in this trending?” Batey asked. The answer is yes and no. Overall, the youth data is positive. “I was very happy to see the trends with our youth,” Batey said. “We’re either holding the line or improving.” Obesity and overweight numbers among youth are gradually improving. Physical activity among youth is increasing. “Those are good things to see,” he said. Cigarette smoking among youth is at a record low. Overall substance abuse is down in kids. The numbers of youth trying alcohol and engaging in binge drinking are also down. Adolescent sexual activity is down. And bullying has dropped a bit. The one area seeing a troubling increase is in mental health. More youth responded that they have considered suicide, and experience regular sadness or hopelessness. “Mental health still seems to be declining,” Batey said. “It’s a trend that’s going in the wrong direction.” In the survey responses of parents with children ages birth to 5, a positive trend was seen in a majority of families reading to children every day in the past week. The biggest negative was a drop in mothers attempting breastfeeding. “That jumped off the page for me,” Batey said. “I think that’s huge.” But overall, Batey was happy about changes seen in younger respondents. “I’m very optimistic about the trends we’re seeing in our children and youth,” he said. Adults, on the other hand, slipped in some key areas especially weight and mental health. A total of 39 percent of adults ranked themselves as obese, compared to 22 percent three years ago. That compares to 32 percent of Ohioans and 30 percent overall in the U.S. that consider themselves as obese. Combined, 72 percent of local adults described themselves as either overweight or obese. “That’s a pretty big swing for us from where we were,” Batey said. “That’s a pretty significant number that’s concerning to me.” Wood County adults also showed a decline in mental health. When asked for the average number of days of poor mental health in the past month, local adults said 4.8 compared to 1.9 in 2015. When asked about having two or more weeks in a row of feeling sad or hopeless, 14 percent of adults said they had experienced…


Josh Almanson shares his hoop skills with hometown youngsters

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Josh Almanson was just getting ready to launch his professional career, he decided he wanted to share the skills that had gotten him that far with the kids in his hometown of Bowling Green. So the Josh Almanson Basketball Camp was launched. On Monday the 13th camp gets underway at the Bowling Green Community Center. The camp runs Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. each day for girls and boys who will be entering grades 2-9. Almanson’s pro career lasted nine years starting and ending in Luxembourg with stops between in Germany, France, and Portugal. But every year, he’d bring home what he’d learned along the way. He’s now a middle school assistant principal in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus, where he also serves as athletic director. Almanson, 36, said the camp taught him lessons as well. It gave him an exposure to working with youngsters that fueled his interest in education. Over the years he’s learned that the campers come in full of energy, and his job is to make sure they expend it before they leave the gym at the end of the day. “You don’t want them to go home with some left in the tank,” he said. Children’s first exposure to basketball often comes from seeing game highlights. He wants to show them what goes into creating those spectacular plays. “What happens when they show up to a tryout and practice? Their exposure may be seeing highlights, this looks completely different.” There’s training in the fundamentals, integrated with a lot of game play. “We have different team competitions or individual competitions. We do a lot of skill work and development. That’s kind of the basis, a lot of skill work and a lot of competition.” The camp draws 60 to 80 kids from all over Northwest Ohio. “They have a good time and meet new people.” Depending on numbers they’ll be broken down into several groups based on age. Some of the students come in with relatively advanced skills and already play in leagues. Others are just starting to learn he sport. Almanson works with them all. “We want kids to learn something about basketball and learn something about themselves and have a good time with it.” He said he’s been fortunate in the coaching help he’s gotten to help with the camp. Some have gone on to coach in college. Almanson did coach the first few years he was a teacher, but can’t now that he’s an administrator. He said he’d like to in the future, especially if he has children involved in sports. Almanson played at Bowling Green High School, and then went to Bowling Green State University to play four years. His time in Europe taught him a lot beyond basketball. He had to adjust a variety of cultures and different people. “I don’t play basketball on a daily basis. I do interact with people on a daily basis. It’s given me a different perspective on how people are operating, and how people are different.” Josh Almanson Basketball Camp costs $100 for each participant. For more information visit:  www.joshalmansoncamp.com.  


Two visions of Wonderland presented by area youth theater companies

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Wonderland, it seems, is the place to be this weekend. The imaginary land comes to life on both sides of the Maumee as the Horizon Youth Theatre stages “Dorothy in Wonderland,” directed by Allison Kulbago, at the Otsego auditorium while the youth wing of the Waterville Playshop stages “Disney Alice in Wonderland Jr.,” directed by Shauna Newbold, in the Maumee Indoor Theater. The HYT show runs Thursday, June 21, Friday, June 22, and Saturday, June 23 at 7 p.m. (click for information) “Alice” runs Friday, June 22,  and Saturday, June 23 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 at 2:30 p.m. (click for information) And, yes, that is Dorothy who lands in Wonderland courtesy, of course, of yet another tornado. The conceit of the HYT production of the Brian Taylor script is that Dorothy (Terra Sloane) and her friends Scarecrow (Calista Wilkins), Tin Man (Thomas Long), the no longer Cowardly Lion (Nash Valantine) and Toto (Lila Stover) get blown into the middle of Alice’s adventure. They have to draw on the virtues, courage for the lion, for example, bestowed on them by the Wizard to cope with this new strange place and its crazy characters. Don’t fear, Alice (Sophia Nelson) is here as well as all the usual unusual Lewis Carroll characters. That includes the Mad Hatter played by M Clifford as a hipster clown, making the most of a few scenes. The script offers plenty of cameos, with even chorus members having names, or at least numbers when they’re part of the deck of cards. Dorothy is charged with defeating the queen of hearts played with haughty majesty by Isaac Douglass. Glinda (Ann Weaver) floats in from Oz to help. She and Alice share the most touching song “Just a Girl.” Interesting that in a show with so much action, to the point of being antic, that this ballad and the first act closer “Will We Ever See Home Again” are the songs that register most. Like “Dorothy,” “Disney Alice in Wonderland Jr.” uses recorded tracks instead of live music. In the case of the Disney musical, those are jazzy big band numbers that really drive the action. With high concept costuming and make up, “Alice” hits the stage like the animated movie come to life with the neighborhood kids spliced in to play the characters. Here the plot points of “Alice in Wonderland” are used to hopscotch from one musical number to the other. The script fits in 17 musical numbers in a quick-tempo one-hour run time. At times the pace seems like a dance recital with one bunch of colorfully attired kids after another shuffled on and off the stage. Given the greater attention paid to the story we get not one, but three Alices. Macie Skiff plays the principal, while Abi Roth and the petite Addison Puffenberger play the title character as the various edibles shrink or expand her. While most of the music is drawn from the animated film, others are borrowed, notably “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” from “Song of the South.” Here it’s Caterpillar (Brooke Dove) who sings it to cheer up small Alice. That’s followed by the hilarity of the “Unbirthday Song,” performed by the Mad Hatter (Tyler Cowdey), March Hare (Shivali Subreenduth), the Cheshire Cat (Teagan Smith, Mia Pyle, Skyelar…


BGHS gets good grade for preparing students for future

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green High School has been recognized by a national organization for preparing its students for life after high school graduation. “It was good news this morning,” Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci said of the award from GreatSchools, a national nonprofit organization that provides parents with information about pre-kindergarten-12 schools and education. The website provides ratings based on test scores and a variety of other factors for schools in all 50 states. The recognition was based on college-readiness and how well the students do once they are in college. “They follow that data,” Scruci said of the information collected for the awards. “I think it speaks to the things going on in Bowling Green High School and the Middle School,” Scruci said. A total of 814 schools in nine states were recognized. “It’s a nice feature in the district’s cap to be included,” the superintendent said. Other area schools to make the list are Ottawa Hills, Perrysburg, Sylvania Northview, Sylvania Southview, and Toledo School for the Arts. “That’s a pretty good group to be a part of,” Scruci said. All were honored for having a successful track record of helping their graduating students succeed in college. GreatSchools reported it selected high schools based on college preparation, enrollment and performance. The award-winning high schools stood out based on school-level post-secondary data collected and shared by each state. The organization compiled data including college entrance exam scores and participation rates, college enrollment rates, the percentage of students enrolled in remedial courses in college, and college persistence rates. “We’ve put more emphasis on college-prep curriculum,” with more classes added, Scruci said. “We want to get them as well prepared for their futures, whatever that might be,” he said. As of July 2017, the GreatSchools database contained information on more than 138,000 public, private, and charter schools in the U.S. With the list of College Success Award winners, GreatSchools had the following statement: “A high-quality public education should empower today’s young people with the skills they need to forge a path to bright futures. With this in mind, GreatSchools is proud to announce the winners of the 2018 College Success Award. This honor recognizes 814 high schools across nine states that have a successful track record of going beyond simply graduating students to helping them enroll in college and succeed once they get there. “The College Success Award-winning high schools stand out based on school-level postsecondary data collected and shared by their states. This data tells us whether students enroll in college, are ready for college-level coursework, and persist on to their second year. The award-winning schools are located in nine states where this postsecondary data is available: Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri and Ohio.”  


Flavorful e-cigs target vulnerable teen users

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Decades ago, public health officials realized the lunacy of using a cartoon character to promote cigarettes. That was the beginning of the end for Joe Camel, the cool pool-shooting, cigarette-puffing character. The big colorful camel had become as easily recognizable as the Disney logo to youth, according to Dr. Megan Roberts, from Ohio State University, who spoke about adolescents and new tobacco products to the Wood County Prevention Coalition last month. As the use of traditional cigarettes has dropped among teens, the use of alernative tobacco products is up. Those new products include vaping – the inhaling and exhaling of aerosol produced by e-cigarettes or similar devices like vape pens. While cartoon characters have been banned from tobacco marketing, fun flavors are allowed – 7,764 flavors in fact – ranging from chocolate, to “mango tango,” to “cinna-MMM.” “Adolescents respond to tobacco marketing,” Roberts said. Despite restrictions, tobacco products are advertised heavily in places like convenience stores or gas stations. “They are plastered with tobacco ads.” The tobacco industry spends more than $9 billion a year on marketing, she said. A study of adolescents and cigarette advertisements showed that flashy tobacco ads increase activity in youths’ brains. Ads for flavored tobacco created brain activity in kids who weren’t tobacco users. An eye-tracking study showed kids focused longer when flavored tobacco ads were shown. The colorful ads combined with the fruity flavors create the perception that e-cigarettes are harmless, cool, even fashionable, Roberts said. “These are chemicals that can be dangerous when inhaled,” especially for developing brains, she said. Though smoking regular cigarettes is no longer as popular with adolescents, there are many other options out there for them now – cigarillos, e-cigs, hooka, juuls. In 2014, e-cigarette use surpassed cigarette use in middle and high school students in the U.S., Roberts said. Many teens and adults consider these newer options as safe, but Roberts disagreed. Hookah, she said, which involves tobacco being smoked through a water pipe, has the same risks as cigarettes. “With every puff, the user is inhaling carcinogens,” she said. “It’s not a harmless water vapor.” The same goes for cigarillos, which are tiny cigars. E-cigs, devices that deliver nicotine and other additives through inhaled aerosols, are not only flavored, but are also shaped like everyday items that adults don’t realize are e-cigs, Roberts said. “There are many different shapes and sizes,” she said. “Some look like pens and some look like USB drives.” “Those are extremely popular among young people,” Roberts said. “Parents don’t know what they are.” In some cases, teens can be vaping from the smaller devices in class, without teachers realizing, she said. Many youth and their parents don’t realize that some of the cigarette alternatives still contain addictive nicotine, cancer-causing chemicals, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds, she said. Tobacco is still the leading cause for mortality in the U.S., with more than 480,000 lives lost a year, according to Roberts. “Tobacco is clearly a public health concern,” she said. Rates of overall adolescent tobacco use have not dropped in the past five years. One in five high school students report using tobacco products in the last 30 days. “Addiction begins early,” Roberts said. Controversies surround e-cigarettes, she said. Do they help adults quit smoking?…