Self Defense Class Prepares Penn Manor Students to Face the World

A self-defense class recently helped five young college women in Bangor, Maine stop a man with a knife from escaping after he had just stabbed a 34-year-old nursing student.

Brittany Vernalli demonstrates how an assailant might attack a victim. Photo by Kayla Pagan

That’s just the kind of training that Penn Manor girls have available to them through the school’s self-defense class. And in today’s world, they may need it.

“One out of every six American woman has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime” according to, an organization devoted to enlightening the public about the dangers of rape abuse and incest.

Almost ten years ago, a new health elective was first made available to the school’s junior and senior girls, women’s health and self-defense.  It’s a health class focusing on young women, issues they’re facing and being aware of the hard truth about personal safety.

It debuted during the 2000-2001 school year.

“It’s recommended for junior and senior girls because of the difference in maturity levels and their relationships,” said Heather Paquette, a physical education teacher, who teaches the Penn Manor course.

Technique you can use to defend yourself if someone is trying to choke you. Photo by Kayla Pagan

“The girls who take the class learn about the targets on an attackers’ body that are most sensitive and easiest to reach, weapons protection and general situational awareness,” Paquette said about the course.

“We have more girls sign up each year,” Paquette said, “There were about 50 this year.”

Paquette said it’s important for females to take a class like this. “It creates awareness for high school girls about sexual assault and prepares them for their college and work surroundings,” she said, “It’s not even about strength, its technique.”

She said the class teaches actual self-defense techniques that can keep a girl safe in many situations.

“The class teaches them about awareness, they’re not necessarily completely prepared for an attacker, but they’re at least thinking about high-risk situations that they might find themselves in,” Paquette said, “They should always trust their instincts.”

PM self defense class in action. Photo by Kayla Pagan

“I really enjoyed the class, and it taught me a lot about how to protect myself against predators,” said Bianca Ygarza, a senior at Penn Manor High who tookn the course in the fall semester.

Ygarza said she would recommend the class to others.

“It’s a fun and informative class, you do a lot of bonding with your classmates and it’s a stress-free environment where you can talk about anything,” Ygarza raved.

Even though the occurrence in Bangor, Maine is not an everyday happening, Ygarza and Paquette agree it’s all about “preparation.”

By Dana Poetzl and Kayla Pagan

2 thoughts on “Self Defense Class Prepares Penn Manor Students to Face the World”

  1. “‘One out of every six American woman has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime’ according to”

    In the above excerpt from the article, I took note that the quotation from incorrectly uses the word “woman” when the appropriate word choice would have been “women” since it needs to be plural. This leads me to question the credibility of the source at hand if they are unable to manage simple grammar.

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