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Following in their mothers' footsteps - Three Naperville girls create a teenage version of an adult storytelling platform

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Yvonne Boose
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(From left to right) Saavi Krishnan, Jillian Katz and Janiki Amerson.

A storytelling platform has sprouted its first fruit. Three northern Illinois teenagers are following in their mothers’ footsteps by telling one story at a time.

Jillian Katz, Saavi Krishnan, and Janaki Amerson came together to create Sprout. This Naperville organization provides an outlet for teenagers to share their experiences through spoken word. The producers are all children of The People Tree producers. The People Tree gives adults the opportunity to tell their stories in a public setting.

Katz is 13 years old. She says watching adults perform for The People Tree sparked an idea inside of her.

“And I was thinking, well, we can have something like this for kids,” she said. “I feel kids can do this. And a lot of talented writers in this area are kids and they need a platform to share their stories.”

She put out a call for other teenagers to join her and Krishnan and Amerson answered.

The group hosted its first show last week. The teenagers talked about a variety of things but one of the common topics centered around mental health.

Twelve-year-old Krishnan shared a story about a friend who wanted to commit suicide.

“I had to change some of the names because I didn't want to exploit people. But even during the story, I was shaking a bit. But now that it's over, I'm happy I shared it.”

Amerson is 14 years old. She’s the daughter of the original creator of The People Tree. She says she always talked to her mom about creating a teen platform and was glad to join forces with Katz. Amerson was the emcee for the event.

“I'm a performer so I do a lot of theater,” she explained. “So, I absolutely love talking in front of people. But it's just very exciting to get to see all these people who might not have an outlet to be able to have somewhere where they can share this.”

Sprout partnered with the Naperville group Youth Voices during this evening of youth storytelling. This organization teaches area teenagers the art of debate. Varun Vaid is the director of outreach for the group.

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Yvonne Boose
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Inaugural Sprout event

“So, we want to teach public speaking, not just debate,” he said. “So, the thing of debate is like, it's argumentative, you're there. You're learning a lot. You're like speaking but it's a very specific type of speaking.”

Vicki Mogil was there with her husband Howie. She says she was a middle school principal, and she was impressed with how articulate the children were. Her husband says he likes that this platform gives the children a voice.

“They have an identity, like one of the speakers said, and it gives them a chance to think out loud and to recognize they're not alone,” he added. “I think it's a fantastic thing.”

Katz agrees and says it’s important that children have a platform to release what’s going on inside of them.

“A lot of stuff that affects adults in this world affects kids too,” she said. “And I think they're underrepresented in the fact that we think they are lesser because they are less experienced. But here in the show we show kids’ experiences and give them a place to share them.”

The first show was sold out. The group plans on pulling more teens together to share their stories on July 28th. More information about this teenage story telling group can be found on Facebook.