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With skits, Grand Forks high schoolers teach respect, caring at elementary schools

Grand Forks Red River High School students told more than 100 of their younger peers Wednesday that they don't have to succumb to peer pressure -- for anything.

Red River High School drama students
Red River High School drama students (L-R) Jacoba Woodard, Nic Rolph, Morgan Yound, Seth Cline and Erin Lesch present their annual Character Education performance for children at Century Elementary School Wednesday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Grand Forks Red River High School students told more than 100 of their younger peers Wednesday that they don't have to succumb to peer pressure -- for anything.

Members of the theatrical group, called I.M.I.4.U.2.C. (I am I for you to see), pretended they were children in a lunchroom, acting out the classic drama of choosing where to sit when friends don't get along.

If member Jacoba Woodward decided to sit with member Morgan Young, the group warned they would withdraw friendship privileges like sitting together at recess. Still, Woodward decided to stick by her friend.

"Listen to your heart, especially when you know that someone is doing something that's wrong," member Sydney Drees told the audience at the end of the skit.

Over the past 22 years, the Red River group has grown from four members to more than 30, promoting good character through song, dance and skits. Century is one stop in an annual tour of elementary schools in Grand Forks School District this week and next week.


Skits are built around the district's six "pillars of character" -- respect, responsibility, fairness, citizenship, trustworthiness, caring -- and some have modern touches.

The group performing at Century Elementary School transformed the concept of Minecraft, the popular video game about breaking and placing blocks, into a skit about "character craft," where students earn blocks by doing something good. Another skit highlighted racial conflict by introducing a town called Fabrica, which was inhabited by two sparring groups, the Stripes and the Polka Dots.

"Sometimes, people only look at what's on the outside, but don't take the time to get to know who's on the inside," Young told the audience.

Erin Lesch, a senior who has been performing with the group for four years, said this kind of skit is particularly relevant to Grand Forks, which has a growing refugee population.

"I feel like they get judged just because they're different from us," she said. "I think it's good to teach (students) that they're the same as us on the inside."

One of the directors, Jamie Toutenhoofd, said it's important to bring these issues up with high school students and do something to reach out to younger ones. She's long been involved with elementary students, both as a teacher at Lewis and Clark school and through the Summer Performing Arts program.

"I've seen kids moved to tears before, I've seen kids cry when we've talked about bullying," she said. "They've come up to our cast members and said, 'This same thing has happened to me. Thank you for teaching others about it.'"

Call Johnson at (701) 787-6736; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1736; or send e-mail to jjohnson@gfherald.com .

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