ISHPEMING - Drug abuse and violence can be a problem in any school, and they're and hard subjects to talk about. But the ACTion Troupe program at Westwood High School is committed to making sure these problems don't go unnoticed.
The "ACT" in ACTion Troupe stands for Alternative through Creative Theater. Students in the program learn how to create and present short, powerful, interactive dramatic scenes and presentations. These presentations are designed to convey messages about healthy lifestyle choices. The troupe is made up of volunteer students that want to make a difference, said Larry Boburka, Westwood guidance counselor and ACTion Troupe adviser.
"We're trying to get high school students to stand up and say, 'this is what we believe in,'" Boburka said.
Michelle Ayotte, an ACTion Troupe member, talks to children at Bothwell Middle School in Marquette. (Photo courtesy of Larry Boburka)
Sarah Conery, left, and Gordon Grigg, right, present to students at Aspen Ridge Aspen Ridge Middle School in Ishpeming. (Photo courtesy of Larry Boburka)
The program started after students from Westwood took part in Teen Leadership Cooperative Fest, a youth mentoring program created to help students learn more about themselves and train them to be better leaders. TLC, no longer exists, but was a U.P.-wide weekend event for students. Each weekend was designed around a different issue, such as bullying or substance abuse, Boburka said. It was similar to a well-known program called "Challenge Day."
"They took this moment when you felt something, where you were emotionally engaged and then put you all in a room and said, 'let's teach you skills on how to deal with this,'" Boburka said. "The ACTion Troupe grew out of that program."
Boburka said students came back from TLC, came to his office and said they had to continue the movement. The ACTion Troupe program started 13 years ago at Westwood and has been going strong ever since, Boburka said.
This year there is about 25 students in the group. According to Boburka, every student in ACTion Troupe agrees to not participate in bullying, gossiping, partying or using drugs and alcohol.
"In order to be apart of ACTion Troupe you have to be able to walk the walk," Boburka said.
Danielle Swiedals, a Westwood senior, has been apart of ACTion Troupe for all four years of high school. Swiedals has made many public service announcements that have played on TV, including one about prom. Swiedals said she joined because she thinks it's important to bring awareness to the issues of substance abuse, bullying, suicide and violence.
"One person can make a difference and that's what we are trying to do," Swiedals said. "It's just a wonderful program that we wish anyone and everyone would join."
Jade Lewis, a Westwood senior, said she feels the same way about bringing awareness to these issues. This is Lewis's first year in ACTion Troupe.
"I use to go to Marquette and they didn't have (a program), which is really disappointing. Then I got here and I talked to Mr. Boburka and he told me about ACTion Troupe," Lewis said. "I think it's a really good program because in my life I've been affected by a lot of what we try to prevent, so I figured it would be a good thing for myself and also for others because I have an insider's perspective."
Swiedals and Lewis both encourage interested students to join ACTion Troupe. ACTion Troupe meets every Wednesday during lunch in Room 116.
Adelle Whitefoot can be reached at 906-486-4401.