When Justin Cervantes talks about the importance of bullying awareness, he cannot contain his excitement.
Cervantes, 23, a Cedar Rapids native, now lives in Minneapolis where he works as a videographer and outreach conductor with the Climb Theatre troupe. The non-profit organization based in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., performs educational productions.
For two days this month, Cervantes’ company gave a series of performances in Cedar Rapids focused on encouraging self-control and spreading bullying awareness. One of those performances, on Dec. 7, was at LaSalle Middle School. In the audience was Cervantes’ sister, 13-year-old Isabella.
During the performance, three actors portrayed high schoolers. In one scene, two of them put the other actor into a trash can.
“It’s really just a wonderful experience, it’s powerful to see and to hear how (the audience is) very much listening. Throughout the whole performance, they were listening,” Cervantes said after the show. “It also just means so much to me, besides coming here, that my sister is here. That is a very special part for me.”
Isabella said she was surprised at some parts of the performance.
“I was kind of hurt by some of the stories that they’re saying,” she said. “If I see anyone getting bullied, I need to help them.”
Nick Duffy, principal at LaSalle Middle School, said bullying is prevalent.
“It takes place in a number of schools,” Duffy said. “It’s good for our students to understand the power of standing up for others and doing one kind thing, doing one nice thing and not always being a follower but being a leader and maybe being somebody who’s not just a bystander.”
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Cervantes also attended LaSalle Middle School and graduated from Jefferson High School in 2010. He attended Wartburg College and graduated in May 2014 with a degree in theater. He then took part in the Twin Cities Unified Theatre Auditions before joining Climb Theatre.
In addition to his work with Climb, Cervantes is directing a musical called “Winter Wonderettes”. It is his first time professionally directing. He also works part time at Hallmark at the Mall of America.