Kelsey Perrigo reflected on “getting out there in the world” as she talked with people, collecting sponsorships for activities like the Teens in Motion law enforcement t-shirt fundraiser and other projects throughout Hannibal. She credited the program for helping her come “out of her shell a lot.”

 Constant bullying and taunts had taken away much of a Hannibal teen’s self-esteem, leaving her searching for hope.

“I let these girls tear me apart, and I started tearing myself apart,” Shelby Watkins said.

She stopped attending school regularly, and she was in trouble with the Juvenile Office. But one day, she decided to go to school — finding new hope for her future.

“God got me out of bed and he had plans for me that day,” she said. “That’s the day Amy (Vaughn) came to Hannibal Middle School to talk about the Kids in Motion program.”

Watkins presented an essay she wrote about her experiences with Kids in Motion and Teens in Motion during the celebration for the first class of Teens in Motion on Monday, May 16, at First Presbyterian Church. She and her nine friends in the group have become a family — gaining responsibilities, learning new skills and giving back to the community during the one-year program, which is a part of Douglass Community Services and under the umbrella of the United Way.

She said she learned the value of teamwork, patience and treating people with respect; witnessing a change from shyness to becoming talkative and meeting new friends. Watkins and her friends enjoyed seeing the smiles on the faces of the people they helped, and she noted “teamwork makes the dream work.”

Kelsey Perrigo reflected on “getting out there in the world” as she talked with people, collecting sponsorships for activities like the Teens in Motion law enforcement t-shirt fundraiser and other projects throughout Hannibal. She credited the program for helping her come “out of her shell a lot.”

“When I had first started this program, I was very shy. I didn’t want to talk, really,” Perrigo said. “So I made some friends, and I started getting along with people, and it turned out to be great. So now I know everybody.”

Antoinette Ludington said she learned what it takes to look out for her new family members and for herself.

“I learned to stand up for yourself and for what you believe in. Don’t let anyone bring you down by what they say or tell you,” Ludington said. “Amy and Nicole [Program Director Amy Vaughn and Supervisor Nicole Martin] have influenced me a lot to follow my dreams and don’t let anyone break me.”

Fellow Teens in Motion member Isaac Day recalled that he overcame his shyness, too.

He led the team of teens who requested sponsorship at Tom Boland Ford for the law enforcement t-shirt fundraiser. Vaughn noted that the team raised $3,057 to benefit local law enforcement through their visits to businesses and media outlets.

The teens kept busy all year with activities like visiting College of the Ozarks in Branson, learning about the dangers of drugs from Sgt. Jonathan Borgmeyer, completing a class that instilled confidence during a job interview, participated in a drunk driving simulator led by Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Eric Brown, helping with cleanup from the Toys for Tots program and adopting a family for Christmas.

Supervisor Nicole Martin announced that Day, Perrigo and her twin brother, Royce, received perfect attendance and the full dollar amount that can be used for college expenses following high school graduation. She said she saw the Teens in Motion members mature as they tackled every aspect of projects throughout the year.

“I saw these kids accomplish things that adults are afraid to do,” Martin said.

Former Kids in Motion member Parisha Scott performed a moving rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” for the group. Next, people who have worked with the teens shared their reflections and words of encouragement with the group.

Hannibal Superintendent of Schools Susan Johnson referred to Teens in Motion as “an evolution of Kids in Motion.”

“These are some great kids,” she said, noting the program’s reach radiated throughout the community.

“I believe in in it. I believe in what’s it about,” Johnson said. “It’s about believing in kids and believing that kids are the future.”

Johnson said the teens’ voice in the community and their sharpened leadership skills would help them make a positive impact wherever they went. She said she appreciated the chance to attend a Teens in Motion meeting to receive feedback for the school district.

Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd said the group made a difference in many ways.

Shepherd remembered their help during a tournament for Court Appointed Special Advocates, their visit to Bluff City Theater to learn about acting with confidence and the time she came to their class to share what she sees in court. She offered words of advice to the teens from Proverbs Chapter 12, saying “an unwise person always thinks that he or she is right, but a wise person listens to advice.”

“I think these 10 Teens in Motion have shown what wise young teens they are, as they devoted so much of their time and energy this year listening to other’s advice, keeping their minds open, learning and growing — that’s what makes wise teens — and by doing that, they are setting an example for the entire community,” Shepherd said.

Teens in Motion members demonstrated one of the skills Martin taught them as they handed out “Thank You” coffee mugs and shook hands with their mentors, Douglass Community Services staff and board members and guest speakers. Vaughn commended Martin, Marcia Luck and Glory Franklin for their steadfast support throughout the year.

Vaughn said applications will soon be accepted for the second class of Teens in Motion, which will expand to two classes with ten teens each next school year. To learn more about the Teens in Motion program, please call Vaughn at Douglass Community Services at 573-221-3892 ext. 246 or visit http://www.hannibalkidsinmotion.com .

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com