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Students participate in BreakDown STL

April 13, 2018

Through a program called BreakDown STL, student leaders from around 20 high schools across the St. Louis area, give performances and teach healthy living classes all across the St. Louis area throughout the school year.

The topics BreakDown covers are drugs, alcohol, sex, abstinence, self-harm, suicide and healthy relationships. Their main goal is to encourage high school students to live life differently rather than doing what the popular choice or media is influencing students to do.

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Will Schuchardt, junior

Two years ago junior Will Schuchardt auditioned for BreakDown as an actor, anddespite having no previous acting skillsjoined the on-stage team.

“I saw it was a prime position to reach those who needed to be reached, but don’t always get reached by other students. Through this, I am able to be bold in what I believe in and step outside my comfort zone,” Schuchardt said. “I used to make poor decisions, but now I can really make an impact on the students and let them know that they don’t have to live like I used to live, because I would rather put myself out there and keep a student from going through what I went through.”

Schuchardt’s role in the performance is a student who struggles with depression and considers ending his life. Halfway through the show, he writes a suicide letter, but ultimately friends come alongside him and prevent him from taking his life. Through this role, Schuchardt has reached out and connected with students who have struggled with suicide.

“I got to talk to this one guy and take him to the counselor and really just get him help. He was really dealing with suicide and he actually had his suicide planned for the upcoming week. I still keep in contact with him and that’s one of the stories that makes me realize why I do this: that kid might not be here today if BreakDown wasn’t a thing, so it’s very real life stuff that I wouldn’t experience if I wasn’t on BreakDown,” Schuchardt said.

Schuchardt joined the team in fall 2016 and felt unprepared to act in front of large audiences comprised of his peers. He was also not prepared for the personal transformation he would experience.

“There’s a huge difference. People wouldn’t even recognize how I carried myself then versus now,” Schuchardt said. “Just the fact that they [BreakDown] accepted me and brought me into their family when I did not deserve it is another sign of how much I’m appreciative of BreakDown. My life before didn’t prepare me, but now BreakDown’s prepared me for the rest of my life.”

Schuchardt feels his role is a vehicle to engage in difficult conversations with peers and help them to the best of his ability.  

“It’s rewarding that they want to talk to us about their problems and it’s not forced. That they want to change and know how we get through things, the opportunity to talk to them is the best part. The acting stuff, who cares, it’s just to meet the students where they’re at and talk with them,” Schuchardt said.

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