Friday, April 30, 1999

Skits carry message to classmates

Teen troupe promotes abstinence

Enquirer Contributor

        LIBERTY TOWNSHIP — Under Pressure isn't afraid to tackle any topic that touches the lives of teen-agers.

        The Lakota East High School performing group uses short skits written and presented by teens to try to persuade classmates to stay away from drugs and avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

        Its current half-hour show, Prom Madness, covers topics such as date rape, peer pressure, mixing alcohol and pills, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy and self-esteem. It was presented to all students at both high schools last week and community groups this week as part of Substance Abuse Awareness Week.

        “The message is always abstinence-based,” said English teacher Sue Bateman, the group's director. “Our focus is always to stop or slow down the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.”

        Teens involved with the group say its effectiveness comes not from the message but from its presenters: classmates. Intermingled with the skits are relevant statistics from such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control.

        “We wanted to do it because no one else was doing it,” said senior Marc McEwan, 18. “We're motivated by something that touched us.”

        Added junior Beth Leedy: “Out of all the research done, we found peer-to-peer makes all the difference. It's better than having another adult coming into a classroom and telling you something is wrong.”

        The situations portrayed in the skits are familiar to most teens. In one, called “911,” a student taking medi cation for a medical problem starts drinking with his friends even though he knows he shouldn't. He goes into convulsions. His friends think his vomiting is because of drunkenness, so they delay calling 911. The boy later dies.

        “If we can reach one person, we've made a huge impact,” said senior Jenni Furia. “At every single show, someone comes up and says, "That was me. That was me.'”

        Next year the group plans to add skits on conflict resolution and school violence.

        Junior Rachel Fincher is one of 100 students who have been involved in this year's four shows, timed to homecoming, winter break, a workshop at the International Pride Convention and the preprom show.

        Neighboring high schools are frequently invited to the shows, and the group takes it message on the road.

        “I saw how it was making some people uncomfortable,” Rachel said. “It's so much better than sitting in desks listening to teachers. We're their peers!”


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