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From left, front row: Ava Sesso, Regan Hawkins, Hailey Wychoskie, Julia Gray, Griffin Turock, Amelia Smicherko, Mariah Kumor, Daniel Barkley and Brayden von Ahnen. Back row: Caelan Baden, Justin Calabro, Carl Galavitz, Michael Phillips, William Russomano and Brandon Frommert.

Triboro-area students were featured prominently in a recent event celebrating a kinder and gentler society.

The Parents Loving Children Through Autism (PLCTA) Foundation recently held its seventh annual Raise Your Voice Anti-Bullying Talent Show at the Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in downtown Scranton. There, students from across the area performed songs and dance routines and made inspirational speeches to raise awareness on and combat the scourge of bullying, which has become an especially timely issue in recent years due to social media and the increase in teenage suicides.

Meanwhile, the event has a charitable component, too. This year, the PLCTA collected 238 trial-size items that were turned into “blessing bags” and donated to Scranton’s Keystone Mission homeless shelter.

All told, about 20 area students performed at the show, including Old Forge graduate William Russomano, and the following Riverside students: Mariah Kumor, Amelia Smicherko, Hailey Wychoskie, Julia Gray, Ava Sesso, Reagan Hawkins and Caelan Baden.

“It’s grown into such a beautiful thing,” said PLCTA founder and president Kathleen Walsh, whose son initiated the idea for the show several years ago when he made it his high school senior project.

“I try to get students from as many schools as I can, and bring them all together,” Walsh added. “And kids who don’t perform can still come and volunteer at the event.”

The primary mission of the event is “spreading kindness, by standing up and using your voice,” Walsh said.

The kids take that theme and gear their performances around it.

“Each performance reflects kindness and anti-bullying,” she said. “It’s a show, but we’re using that venue to pass that message on.”

According to Walsh, the first two performers, both from Riverside, delivered speeches on the importance of kindness and the need for good, effective leaders to be kind. Another student performed the popular folk song, “Abraham, Martin and John,” a tribute to the social change championed by Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy.

“That song blended so well with the theme. From the top down, leaders have a responsibility to lead responsibly,” Walsh said.

The program also included an art show component, music by Mike Walton, appearances by children served by PLCTA, and giveaway bags containing anti-bullying literature.

In addition, participants announced statistics illustrating the grim toll bullying has taken on America’s youth in recent years.

“Bullying has been around forever,” Walsh said. “Now, though, because of social media, someone has access to your child all night long. We have to be very mindful of what our children are into.”

Walsh is a longtime Scranton Counseling Center TSS worker at Riverside, where she recently had the title of life coach added to her duties. Every school year there, she conducts a two-day awareness presentation in an effort to make students more mindful of bullying and special-needs students.

Because of that, she said, Riverside students have been especially passionate supporters of the talent show and other PLCTA events, including the organization’s annual Walk and 5K Run for Autism Awareness at Nay Aug Park.

“They have so much awareness of what the foundation stands for and how to give back,” Walsh said.

For more information on the PLCTA, visit plcta.org.