Who are my real friends? Who can I talk to, who to count on? Growing up isn’t easy. Seven brave teens drove this home when they took the stage at New Line Café to share some of things they’ve been going through.

Virginia Nelson spent five days at camp at UW-Whitewater time-traveling online, constructing coliseums, medieval castles, and an immense Industrial Revolution era factory. Her progressively bigger and more intricate creations were attracting attention from her co-campers. Especially the boys. Rivalries escalated. The boys built a yellow submarine and started a cult in it. They put Minecraft Steveheads on her factory chimneys. She built a floating courthouse with a laser jail and vowed to bring them to justice…it got complicated, but she had the best time.

Malia Carley’s been through some changes, trying to figure out how to stand up for herself. She was befriended, deceived, and betrayed by classmates as she tried to be the kind of friend that she needed. The back-and-forth took its toll on her. It all came to a head on her birthday when she brought treats to school. She didn’t let herself be manipulated by the demands of fake friends, and plans to be her own best friend, going forward.

What do you do when the book fair is coming to your school, and you have no money? Justin’s Mom told him no when he asked for money to spend there. There was so much that he wanted that he snuck into his mom’s room and went into her purse. He got nearly $40, and the transgression felt good! But he’d cleaned her out, and of course she noticed.

He shopped the book fair and came home with plenty of books. His mom asked him where he got the money and he said he’d asked his father. Of course, his mother called to verify this, and Justin was busted. He had to return the books, then turn the refunded money back to his mother. He was put on punishment – lesson learned.

Dante Thomas shared some of the ups and downs of entering the foster care system. After a fighting incident in his family, he spent two years in foster care. For part of that time, he lived with a family in Horicon. He went to church there, and had a lot of fun, but missed his mother.

Dante Thomas

Ex Fabula program director Alea McHatten (who has her own book fair story) told about her rocky relationship with a stepsister. They were living together when they were nine and ten years old. The darker-complexioned stepsister constantly badgered Alea about her lighter complexion and just wouldn’t quit.

One day when they were all hanging upside down from the front porch rail – a favorite pastime – the stepsister started up with her insults. Alea nudged her, and the stepsister took a face plant on the concrete porch! She got a bad scrape across her face. “Now you’re light-skinned too!” She ignored Alea’s taunts till she went inside and saw herself in the mirror. Then she started to bawl! And, of course, blamed Alea.

Three stories, from friends Saoirse O’Waughton, Amelia Wolski, and Mendi Weye were linked! Saoirse’s love language is physical touch, and his tendency to touch their friends sent a message to a classmate, CJ. Several times, CJ asked Saoirse are you dating Mendi? Have you snagged Mendi yet? Recently as Saoirse strolled arm-in-arm with Mendi, late for gym, CJ struck again. I have a serious question! Are you and Mendi dating? CJ just couldn’t grasp touch as a language for friends!

When they started middle school, Amelia got in over her head in the relationship department! They got involved with a person named “Kathy.” She gave it her all, but over time, she realized it wasn’t healthy. Amelia was doing all the giving. They dropped other friends, hurting them, just to keep pleasing Kathy. Then, she found out that Kathy had cheated on her, more than once and with many others! This was the kind of person Amelia had ditched their old friends for.

And one of those friends Amelia had ignored was Mendi. It stung! Mendi spent a lot of time doing nothing, by themself, when Amelia left them behind. Mendi could see over time that Amelia was suffering in her relationship but felt no obligation to fix it. After all, Amelia had placed themself in that situation.

Eventually, Amelia, Saoirse, and Mendi were all together on a “shadow trip” to explore Pius HS as potential students. Toward the end of the day, Mendi spoke to Amelia, tentatively building a bridge back to friendship! They’re friends again, much the wiser for all they’ve been through.

Justin was chosen as audience favorite, and Mendi as the judge’s favorite.

Thank you to all of these brave teens who told their stories!