Dropping In-Theater as Voice


Idea Leader: Calle Treppiedi

Location: Albuquerque, NM

Partner Organization: NM Forum for Youth and Community

Project Summary: Calle Treppiedi, 18, reached her goal of having almost 1,000 people experience the play “Dropping-In” written by members of the New Mexico Youth Alliance.  Calle organized and toured a company of young actor-activists around the state to encourage discussion about the dropout issue.

 

Students in Albuquerque Use Theatre to Encourage Peers to Graduate from High School

The production “Dropping In” will open your eyes to the many reasons and issues that cause youth to drop out of school through an interactive performance. This performance could not been completed without the 20 cast and crew members from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unfortunately, New Mexico has a nearly 50 percent high school dropout rate and many of the strategies being developed to address the dropout rate does not involve input from young people. “Dropping In” was developed through input by youth through a statewide survey where over 400 youth participants provided insights on issues of why students are dropping out.

This production was written by New Mexico Youth Alliance members Meredith Schuh, Jorge Mendoza, and Paola Castillo with the support of Director Karen Jones Meadows. These four reviewed all the input from youth for over two weeks and wrote “Dropping In” for approximately one month maintaining authenticity to value the input of young people. Essentially, this production is the youth’s way of showing adults, leaders of the community, youth, and political leaders in education in New Mexico what is happening to force teens out of school. It also shows ways of how to help youth cope with these issues. This production has been performed four times throughout New Mexico in front of almost 1,000 youth and adults.

In “Dropping In,” one will see issues impacting youth and their academic success, such as underage drinking, lack of parent involvement, teen dating violence, teenage pregnancy, lack of counselor support, and many more. From survival to emotional needs, there is a gamut of challenges these students face in this production that could lead anyone to dropout especially without having a support system. The production is sometimes funny, often poignant, and promotes the process of moving from thought to action within the public education systems on all levels to address the high school dropout rate.

Why are youth putting on such a production? “Because it needs to be seen,” said youth director of “Dropping In” Calle Treppiedi. “It’s one thing to see a statistic but it’s another to see that statistic has a name and a face.”

In addition, we also have been doing this production to help adults to understand that the system needs to be changed. There is a saying, “If it is not broke do not try to fix it.” Here in New Mexico, our education system has been broken for a long time and having a 50 percent high school dropout rate. We young people will not stand by and watch our peers continue to drop out of school. Society needs to make sure that the youth are being heard and that they want to be heard.

“Youth need support to accomplish their educational goals,” said Moneka Stevens-Cordova, adult supporter to “Dropping In.” “I can truly relate to many of these issues highlighted in Dropping In and when I was a sophomore in 1998, I dropout out of high school. Then with reflection and support from caring adults and my peers I went back to school, graduated with my class, obtained my Bachelors degree in Youth Development, and will soon have my Master’s degree in Youth Planning and Youth Policy.”

With the support of America’s Promise, Calle Treppiedi emerged into the leadership role as a Youth Director for “Dropping In”, who also stars as Becky, a first year teacher, instructing a Multi-Media Literacy class. Becky see’s many of the flaws of the educational systems and with the ideas of students decides changes need to be made in order to bring students who have dropped of high school back.

During live performances of “Dropping In,” the audience is able to ask cast members’ questions and the cast provides answers to questions while remaining in their characters. Audience members discover several things such as:

  • Ashley is a character who becomes pregnant while being intoxicated at a party. Ashley was not aware that schools exist for students who are pregnant and did not know how to be a teen parent. Therefore, she gave all her parental rights to the father Michael, who is raising their child on his own. Michael also drops out of school, takes online classes, and is working to provide for his child.
  • Young Jin’s parents supported her financially but not emotionally and they were not aware their daughter had a serious drinking problem. Often times she is intoxicated in school and no one recognizes her drinking problem but her peers. Through her peers she seeks for support but is still having challenges.
  • Bartholomew dropped out of school and is faced with several challenges. His parents place on him a lot of pressure which causes him overwhelming stress, his high school counselor did not do his part in submitting his applications; therefore Bartholomew had thoughts of suicide at times, and eventually drops out of school.
  • Carlos is a gang member and is working on changing to have a better life for him and his girlfriend Inez. With so much pressure, no support, he drops out of high school to work instead of selling drugs for money.
  • Counselor Harrison Grieves is burnt out, and does the minimum to support students in their education as the student to counselor ratio is one counselor to 250-450 students and doing the minimum suffices for him.
  • Rachel struggles to encourage her mother about her abusive relationships. At home there is chaos and a non-safe living environment, at school she is active and it is her only positive outlet at times.

None of this would have been possible without the fabulous help of all our partners: America’s Promise, New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, New Mexico Children’s Cabinet, New Mexico Commission for Community Volunteerism, New Mexico Forum for Youth in Community, and New Mexico Youth Alliance.

We would also like to thank all the youth who provided input for Dropping In, writers, directors, actors, and actresses for the time and commitment you took to address the dropout rate. This play is for you, youth who struggle with so many issues, youth who have dropped out of high school. We want our academic system to support you in getting an education.

Having an education provides so many opportunities. You can accomplish a dream, make another dream, help the community, and so much more. As “Dropping In” is dear to our hearts we want to share with you, a youth perspective and spark an interest in dialog then take action as our students need your support. It is true that it takes a village to raise a child. By you watching this, you are now part of that village of change, and with your voice, your action, we can address the dropout rate not only in our state but nation-wide. And now we present to you “Dropping In.”