Peer pressure. Bullying. Manipulative lovers and friends.
Most everybody has experienced these at some point or another.
On Wednesday night, a club at Morris Community High School put destructive relationships front-and-center at the school’s first-ever Road to Reality, a series of five student-produced scenes portraying challenging situations and the way teens deal with them.
Teens Resisting Our Universe’s Problems Effectively (TROUPE), the drug- and alcohol-free club at MCHS that sponsored the event, chose to focus on destructive relationships because they felt it was a relevant topic that was rarely addressed.
“We don’t always talk about things like bullying or date rape,” said senior Hannah Hesslau, a TROUPE member who helped plan the event. “But this is something that can happen to anyone.”
Hesslau had heard stories of people who had endured destructive relationships and took a personal interest in the topic.
“It took my breath away,” she said. “I really saw how easily stuff like this could happen.”
Hesslau and TROUPE sponsor Celia Mistretta, a science teacher at MCHS, began discussing the project at the beginning of the school year. In December, the project was the sole topic of conversation at the club’s meetings, as members devoted themselves to planning and producing the event.
“It was a really good team effort,” said Sylvia Salinas, a senior member of TROUPE.
Some students researched and wrote the skits. Others acted in them or created sets.
“There was something for every one of these kids to do,” Mistretta said. “[The project] offered so many leadership opportunities.”
The result was a tour that follows the fictional “Megan” as she is pressured to drink at a party, bullied by peers, attempts to control her boyfriend, and gets drunk and eventually raped at a party.
Connie Castelluccio, whose daughter is in TROUPE, said the date rape scene was the most powerful of the tour.
“The last scene was pretty unnerving,” she said. “It seemed very realistic.”
It is disturbing to watch, even in a fictional scene. But to Mistretta, it is all a part of educating students on important issues.
“This is stuff that hits this age group,” Mistressa said. “It’s all so relevant.”
Freshman Kaitlin Pelko felt the message was even more effective because it was delivered not by an authority figure, but by fellow students.
“It makes it a lot more realistic,” she said. “It makes you think about it a lot more.”
For members of TROUPE, that was the main goal: getting their peers to confront these issues.
“I hope people take something from this,” said senior Morgan Popidinski, a TROUPE member.
"Destructive relationships is a subject people are pretty hush-hush about. We felt that, if no one else was going to step out of the bubble and talk about it, we should.”