Teen suicide, harassment and bullying are growing concerns at the high school and even middle school level.
In response to this crisis, a performance troupe has formed to help get positive messages out to teens and preteens.
MWAH! Performing Arts Troupe will take the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, as part of an Operation Snowball event at Haines Middle School, 305 S. 9th St., St. Charles. The public is invited and admission is free.
MWAH!, which stands for Messages Which Are Hopeful, is a troupe of 13 performers, ages 11-20, from the Chicago suburbs, including the Fox Valley area and DuPage County.
"Since we (the performers) are the same age as the (audience) members, I think it gets the message out better," said Sarah Saltiel, a high school junior from Willowbrook.
Participating with MWAH! will be Kassi Wagner, whose brother, Dylan, took his life in April 2010, one of at least three Batavia teen suicides in the past two years.
"Dylan was 15 when he took his life," said Ray Moffitt, the troupe's director. "His sister will say a few very meaningful words about him Friday evening."
Moffitt said St. Charles School District 303 has begun an active approach to preventing teen suicides and bullying, including advocating greater awareness and a more open discussion of this issue, a position which the MWAH! troupe strongly endorses and is glad to be a part of.
"This message needs to get out through the staff and students," Moffitt said. "This is done through performing arts of narration, graphics, dance and music."
Performers will also focus on few other issues such as discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse.
"Our purpose is to show others to think and react in way which are positive," Moffitt said.
On a more uplifting note for Friday's presentation, several Haines Middle School students and staff members will be recognized as "heroes" for their achievements in providing leadership and in successfully meeting personal challenges in their own lives.
"The group really likes to interact with the audience and celebrate the school members who really stuck out and played an active part," Moffitt said.
The not-for-profit troupe is affiliated with Kids Do Count, Inc. and the Chicago Area Project, a grass-roots service and advocacy program based in downtown Chicago and part of an Illinois-wide community services and advocacy network targeting at-risk youths.
For details, visit mwah.net or call (630) 993-0003.