05/30/06 — Skit brings choices to stage

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Skit brings choices to stage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 30, 2006 1:48 PM

Health educator Rovonda Freeman did not want to talk to teens about issues like teen pregnancy, abstinence, avoiding drugs, the same old way -- with a lecture at the front of a classroom.

So, she decided to use drama to talk to area students about good choices -- and to illustrate the consequences of making bad ones.

Employed by the Health Department for the past four years, Ms. Freeman frequently visits schools around the county. Through WISH, the school-based health centers, she is also assigned to work at Goldsboro and Dillard middle schools, as well as Goldsboro High School.

Keeping her message fresh and creative can be a challenge.

"The way that kids relate to a lot of things is through media and music," she said.

Her idea to write a skit that could be performed by students for other teens evolved from a visit to Goldsboro High School nearly two years ago, she said.

Asked to speak to a freshman seminar class, she wrote a poem for the occasion, "The Next Story," which she later shared with students at schools around the county. Response was encouraging, prompting Ms. Freeman to expand on the idea.

She said that a family friend, local musician Tony Edmundson, provided her with a music track and gave her the chance to record the poem in his studio.

From there, a skit was born.

"It kind of filled in some of the places that the poem didn't," she said.

The playlet centered around a high school couple who began dating and found themselves in a situation with an unplanned pregnancy. Rather than dictating the outcome, Ms. Freeman wrote the skit with two different endings, and let the audience decide which direction it would go.

Either the couple could get married or part ways. Since the skit was all about making healthy choices, giving the audience a choice was also a teachable moment, she said.

"The two sides are something that all of us have in our possession," she said. "You hold in your heart a green side and a red side. The green side means you can do things, and you can face the consequences. The red side says that I'm worth the wait, and I'm worth waiting for."

She debuted the play through Goldsboro High School recently, with the aid of Jason Sharp, drama instructor at the school. Sharp's students performed in it before their peers.

Response was positive, she said, and immediate. Evaluations were distributed to students, with responses showing the teens wished the skit was longer, while some suggested more subjects be covered.

"I'm so amazed" in going through the evaluations, she said. "Some said, 'They talk like we talk.' It wasn't written necessarily like that, but I told the kids when they were performing it, I wanted them to get the message across; say it like they say it. I left the script to them."

And there might be more plays like this in her future, Ms. Freeman said.

"We could do other issues in the same format," she said. "They actually were really excited about doing it again and having another 'The Next Story' and talking about other issues."

Among the topics suggested was that of teens hitting their girlfriends, she said.

"You can't just do what you think they need; you have got to listen to what they need," she said.

There is also the possibility of taking her talents on the road.

"We're thinking about doing it in some churches," she said. "We would certainly love to work next year to put it in the middle schools with high school students performing it for them, other kids as role models."

At 29, the Eastern Wayne High School graduate says she will continue to seek creative ways to present messages that touch students' lives.

"I think the subject material can go for almost anything and then it's not in your face, (but) a subtle way to discuss something," she said.