East Ridge hosts SOS for Youth performance troupeSOs For Youth, a performance troupe that aims to intervene in teen crises, performed for East Ridge High School freshman last week.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
Teens today deal with a variety of issues – bullying, depression, abuse, family issues and money concerns – but talking with adults isn’t always the best solution, students learned last week.
“It’s one thing to have adults tell them about issues, but when it’s peers and students their own age,” East Ridge High School Assistant Principal Matt Kraft said, “they are engaged and it does make a difference.”
East Ridge High School hosted >a href=http://www.sosforyouth.org>SOS for Youth, a teen-focused performance troupe, on Thursday, Oct. 11, for its freshmen.
SOS for Youth includes about 60 teenagers who travel in groups of eight to 10 to schools around the Twin Cities where they perform skits relating to a number of different issues.
“It’s really any issue a teenager might find themselves in,” said Sue Oberg, executive director for SOS for Youth.
Last Thursday’s performances included skits dealing with messages of drunken driving, cyber bullying, relationship abuse, racism, priorities, suicide and depression, parental abuse, balancing money and family.
“I thought the performances were awesome,” Kraft said.
Students helping students
When SOS for Youth is booked for a performance, the school tells the group what issues they see affecting the school and what issues they would like to see addressed in the performances.
Next, the playwrights, directors, teens and specialists come together to write the script.
“The kids have the final veto because these are things they have seen or experienced themselves,” Oberg said. “These aren’t just created out of thin air.”
All of SOS for Youth’s performers sign a “Code of Ethics,” which states they will remain drug, alcohol and tobacco free and will live by the messages they share.
Katie Law-Gotich joined SOS for Youth in 2006 when she was just 12 years old because she wanted to be able to help others.
“I just thought it was really cool that I could act and do something that is helping others and spread the message and help the community,” she said.
Oberg said the program’s biggest benefit is that everything is made by students for students.
“The kids are living through these things themselves,” she said. “Some of the kids have lived these or have friends that have lived these, so it’s very real to them and that makes it very real to the kids in the audience.”
Law-Gotich agrees with Oberg that SOS for Youth fills a great need.
“I feel like when teens keep hearing from adults it feels like they’re just lecturing them and no one is listening,” she said. “If they hear it from actual teenagers, they can relate to it since they’re hearing it from someone who knows what it’s like.”
Students feel so comfortable hearing messages from students that they will often reach out to the performers to talk, Oberg said.
At a recent performance, three students approached the SOS for Youth performers about thinking about committing suicide and one student approached them about being sexually abused, Oberg said.
“When they won’t talk to an adult, they’ll talk to a teen,” she said.
Victoria Jones, another of the performers for SOS for Youth, said she loves the feeling when they help someone.
“We do know what they’re going through because we’re going through the same issues every day,” she said. “So, if we go to a school and save one person, that’s a successful show – it’s worth it every time.”
SOS for Youth has filled such a need that the organization is finding that they don’t have enough students anymore, Oberg said.
SOS for Youth will be holding auditions at East Ridge for performers on Oct. 24 after school.
“We need to allow our kids to talk more,” she said, “and this gives them their chance to reach out.”
Kraft said he hopes to have the program perform for East Ridge’s freshmen every year.
“Sometimes those issues lead to situations students think they can’t get out of,” he said, “but they need to know that they’re not alone in experiencing those things.”
For more information on SOS for Youth, or to get involved, visit www.sosforyouth.org. East Ridge High School will be holding auditions on Oct. 24 after school.