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Breaking Down the Tough Issues for Teens
As parents, it’s our responsibility to talk about tough issues with our kids – topics like sex, drugs and drinking.
But eventually we get to that point — the point where we feel like we’re talking to a brick wall — and teens start becoming numb to our “nagging.”
That’s when one group of inspiring teens steps in. Or rather, dances in. BreakDown STL consists of 34 teen performers from throughout the St. Louis area who provide preventative health education through enlightening, and highly energetic, performances.
With their combination of drama, dance and multimedia presentations, these students are empowering their fellow teens to make positive decisions when it comes to sex, alcohol, bullying, suicide, and other critical issues facing high schoolers today.
For many teens, a BreakDown STL performance is the first time the healthy choice message really starts to click.
Said founder and president, Jenna Imergoot, “Sadly, though it’s not always true, many teens feel that adults can’t relate to them or understand them. When they hear from another teen, they finally understand someone else is going through what they are. I’ve had several kids tell me over the years, ‘I’ve heard all of this before, but you make it make sense.’ I believe that’s because it’s peer to peer.”
Blown away by a performance from the Arizona-based BreakDown, Imergoot, (pictured below) a mother of two, decided to bring the first expansion team to St. Louis in 2006.
“I was one of the students who needed to hear the message growing up. Now on the other side as an adult, being a mother, coach and community volunteer, I recognized there were no programs like BreakDown in St. Louis to help teens navigate the challenges they face today.”
Today, BreakDown STL reaches more than 10,000 junior high and high school students each year at school assemblies, community events, and churches. Instead of being lectured at by speakers two or three times their age, students get to hear testimonials from those in their peer group and watch teen actors navigate relatable, hard-hitting situations – a powerful combination in reaching the cynical, media savvy teen.
The organization has also launched OffStage, a pilot program at Hillsboro High School, to help students dig deeper into the topics presented on stage through activities and small group discussions. Already the program has been met with amazing results, serving 230 students each month.
While preventative health education is the main focus of BreakDown STL, according to Imergoot, there are two different messages of empowerment that truly resonate with the audiences, depending on where they’re at in their lives.
“There are students making positive choices who feel they’re all alone. They’re not the ones sharing their stories in the hallway at school. But I have so many students come up to me after a show and say, ‘Oh my gosh – I finally realized I’m not alone!’ We want to connect these kids to each other, let them know they’re on the right track, and encourage them to keep going.
For students who made poor decisions like I did, regardless of the past, we want them to know it’s never too late to change. No matter what they’ve been through, they can choose to live a healthier life. We’re noncondeming, nonthreatening and love them regardless – we just want them to know they don’t have to stay where they are.”
You can see a free BreakDown STL performance for yourself on Saturday, September 15 at the Chesterfield Amphitheater starting at 7 p.m.
Sponsored by Cold Stone Creamery Wildwood, the evening, geared to students seventh grade and older, also includes performances by rapper Rio and national contemporary Christian artist Phil King. To reserve your seats, contact the organization at email@example.com or at 314-971-7625.
In addition, BreakDown STL is hosting a 5K Walk/Run fundraiser on Saturday, October 6 at Faust Park in Chesterfield. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m., and the race kicks off at 9 a.m. The cost per participant is $25 before September 30 and $30 after. Details can be found at www.breakdownstl.org.