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Local performers offer a helping hand

Marla Kalin, Friend2Friend coordinator, left, plays an angel in this scene as she converse with Amber Young. Actors with the Friend2Friend program perform sketches for students to discuss issues they may be facing and how to seek assistance. Tribune photo by TJ Jerke

By the end of the day, the losers became the winners, and vise versa. With the portrayal of the school nerd, jock, cheerleader and stereotypical depressed student, a group of six set out Tuesday to teach ACGC Middle School students how to be respectful, nice and understand that school is short and problems go away.

The acting group, known as Friend2Friend, is part of a West Central Industries program to provide students with educational performances that highlight problems young people face today and how to handle them.

Friend2Friend travels to nine schools in four counties performing sketches to help illustrate issues like ADHD/ADD, autism, brain injury, down syndrome and mental health.

With an emphasis on mental health awareness, Friend2Friend coordinator Marla Kalin, said she wrote an array of sketches to perform in front of the students to get them thinking about what they might do on a daily basis and how that affects other students.

Kalin said bullying is the biggest cause of suicide and can be avoided with effective teaching methods.

She said through Friend2Friend, different concepts are presented to students to get them thinking.

"A lot of times when people are in that dark place and they want to take their life, they don't think about tomorrow," Kalin said. "They are in that moment and are focusing so much they don't see any hope of it getting better, when the fact is things change all the time."

The acting troupe utilizes props and a backdrop painted like a set of school lockers to help reinforce a school environment.

The backdrop has a phone number for students if they need to seek help and sayings like, "Get Help," and "Talk to someone."

Kalin said she has received letters and heard different stories about students talking to their parents and seeking help.

Her favorite story is that of a young boy who teased his brother for having ADHD.?

The boy stopped his antics after watching a Friend2Friend sketch.

The acting troupe, comprised of six independent actors, offers students quotes from celebrities that were bullied or had problems in school to help them understand the messages.

More performances are scheduled this fall throughout the four counties serviced by West Central Industries: Swift, Kandiyohi, Renville and Meeker.