One student’s plan was put into action when the SOS Youth Players performed recently at Iola-Scandinavia High School.
Carley Peterson’s idea to present the youth empowerment program came after she attended the Central Wisconsin Electric Cooperative (CWEC) Youth Leadership Conference in River Falls this past summer.
“I got to see a show put on by the SOS Players and I knew it was something that would be important to share at school,” she said. “The most important lesson I think that I-S students will take away from this is how their decisions not only affect them but also the people around them.”
“We cover social issues that face today’s youth,” said Greg Lund, SOS administrator. “We talk about such things as suicide, teen relationships, cyber bullying, grief and abuse, to name a few.”
“The issues that our actors address are ones that invoke a great deal of emotion,” said Vicky Jones, artistic apprentice of the organization. “The messages are very powerful and the concept is that teenagers truly do have choices and have the power to make healthy and positive decisions.”
“June Erdmann, founder of the program, had a dream,” Lund said. “She wanted youth to be able to talk about their issues that they were dealing with, without feeling uncomfortable talking to adult, but rather youth to youth. ”
“Peer interaction can be a powerful thing,” he added.
The group, from Hudson, travels mainly in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, and averages 8-10 shows a month.
Following their presentations, they usually have a breakout session where students may approach them with questions. Some choose to share a situation that they are currently dealing with.
“We are not counselors,” Jones said. “But we can help them get the help they need. We want to empower youth to change their world.”
The SOS cast includes 35-40 students who range in age from 14-18 years; all are volunteers. Each cast member signs a code of ethic to remain drug, alcohol and tobacco free while maintaining their grade-point average and all other obligations.
Peterson, a senior, made this event possible with the help of the following organizations: The Thunderbird Booster Club, Iola Lions, Iola Lioness, Krause Foundation and CWEC’s Operation Roundup. Comfort Suites donated rooms for the adult chaperones.
“This community deserves a great big hug,” said her mother, Janel Peterson. “We are so very proud of Carley, and impressed by the support of the community.”