MWAH! issues hit close to home in Aledo

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter
Members of MWAH! perform with Mercer County High School students Monday.

A number of powerful messages were heard at Mercer County High School Monday, Nov. 7, presented by MWAH! Performing Arts Troupe (Messages Which Are Hopeful!). Ages of the troupe ranged from 11 years old to one 20-year-old man, with a majority of the students age 16.

The 13-person troupe hails from schools in the West Chicago suburbs.

The messages were revealed by the young artists through song, dance and skits, with some Mercer County students called forward to participate as well.

"This is an issues oriented presentation," said troupe director Ray Moffitt.

Issues such as bigotry -- featuring an anti-muslim sketch, racism, anti-gay and bullying sketches and songs were portrayed for the entire student body at MC HS. There was also a sketch about dating abuse (both physical and verbal). Students relived some historic moments like 9-11, and Martin Luther King's "I Had a Dream" speech. There was also a powerful sharing of personal experiences from two moms from Galesburg who recently lost their sons in a reckless automobile accident.

The Beatle's song Imagine, was sung by two troupe members, with MC student Nathan Fippinger performing his French horn version of the tune after they sang.

Stacey Day called forward six students who were named heros including Allison Adams, Kim Nelson, Brad Williams, Curtis VanWinkle, Caleb VanderHeyden and Richard Bouchard. The troupe sang to each of them about being a hero and ended the sketch with a slow dance.

Mercer County High School Principal Gavin Sronce shared some of his youthful experiences with bullying. He said he had already shared some of his experiences with the students at the start of the year. "I will have zero tolerance for making fun of other people," said Principal Sronce. He advised students to think very hard about any spoken or written words used, be they on Facebook, Twitter or any other means. "Treat each other nice," he said. "This is a whole world you have to fight against," he said. "Let's not fight against each other."

Abdul Wali, a MC HS exchange student from Pakistan, spoke about being from a country that has been a hotbed of terrorism lately. He said that every day there would be bombings and suicides where he lived.

The most emotional speeches came from two women who lost their sons on Aug. 10, this year -- Heather Briscolino, mother of Quinn Dombrow and Cindy Burns, mother of Dustin Frazier.

Thirteen weeks ago two 16-year-old boys who were best friends since junior high were spending some time together before the start of their school year. Cindy said her family had just returned from a vacation.

"I know it's fun to jump these hills," she said. "I had just talked to him (Dustin) at 9 a.m.," she said. Five minutes later the accident happened. "That bad decision cost them their lives."

Heather said she did not receive notice of the accident until 15 minutes to 4 p.m. She held up one tennis shoe and a cell phone as her only mementos from the crash. "All we have is this and pieces of car parts," she said. She said Quinn had locked his cell phone so police were unable to find her number.

She spoke of magical thinking that comes with youth, "You never think it will be you."

Don Moffitt, Illinois Representative, also attended the performance and spoke a bit about the importance of paying attention while driving and bullying. He said his own personal opinion is that bullies are really cowards and sissies with low self esteem.

His advice to anyone being bullied -- "Get help. Don't try to go through it alone."

The morning performance ended with a stunning hip-hop dance piece where a large group of Mercer County students join the MWAH! crew.