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Sonia DuPree

Sonia DuPree uses her love of writing and working with youth to reach out to teens through her corporation, E.N.D. It! (Everybody’s Not Doing It!). ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO

BY PATTIE DURHAM

With two diverse careers in her life, Sonia DuPree is proof that the artist and the mathematician can co-exist. A former IBM computer programmer, the Port St. Lucie mother of three has let her creative side take the reins in recent years to help teens see their way to a more fulfilling life.

Growing up in a military family, DuPree always liked writing skits and performing. She spent her early school years in Valdosta, Ga., and her high school years were in Austin, Texas. A cheerleader from a young age, DuPree always felt at home in front of a crowd. She remembered taking a drama class in high school and making it to the second level of a competition with her cheerleading squad.

When she moved to Port St. Lucie in 2004, DuPree was a work-at-home programmer for IBM, working out of the Jacksonville office. A Savannah State University graduate with a business administration degree, she and her husband, Strather “Skip,” started thinking about the choices and influences that confront teens when their oldest daughter, Simone, was in middle school.

In 2010, the couple formed a corporation named E.N.D. It! (Everybody’s Not Doing It) to help teens find their way to a better and more fulfilling life. DuPree then began recruiting Simone’s school friends and youth from various churches to perform in skits she wrote dealing with topics youth face in today’s world.

“For years, I have been involved in some form of youth ministry,” DuPree said. “I always had a burning in my heart for youth. They have so many things thrown at them through their music, television and culture. The negative influences seemed to be the loudest and boldest. I wanted to help them build their confidence and their boldness for doing the right things, the positive things. Over time, the performing arts became the most effective platform for spreading the positive messages to their peers.

“In June 2010, when Strather and I started the corporation, it followed what we have always done. A great part of our adult lives were spent working with youth to help them resist things that would negatively impact their lives, and providing alternatives. So with E.N.D. It Corp, as we call it, I began writing teen-relevant skits with input from the youth. They became more complex and evolved into productions. Last year, our performing arts team reached a total of 842 audience members.”

DuPree has gone from a solitary computer coding job to working with an active group of 40 youth, with 25 on her performing arts team. All three DuPree daughters are heavily involved in the programs, with Simone taking on a leadership/mentor role after graduation. Since its beginnings, more than 263 youth have participated in E.N.D. It! programs.

On Friday nights twice a month, she and Strather facilitate a group called CHILL (Choosing How I Live Life) that meets on the campus of Calvary Compassion Church at the former Orange Blossom Mall in Fort Pierce.

“We have dinner and play team-building activities,” she said. “Then we split into male and female groups for discussions on life lessons. We are now discussing teens and parents. We have done abstinence and the guys have discussed manhood. My husband leads the guys group and I lead the girls. We have other mentors who help facilitate the discussions.”

In 2016, the teens took on teen dating violence. With their input, DuPree put together the drama, A Broken Chain, which deals with this issue. It was performed at the Port St. Lucie Community Center and in Martin County for the Tykes to Teens group. Other teen topics such as bullying, purity, peer pressure and gang violence have been the subjects of skits. And this year, the focus turned to human trafficking, one of the most lucrative crimes in the United States.

“The teens feel really connected with this topic,” she said. “I worked with the youth to make them a part of the creative process. I used ideas and lines they suggested, then I put the final script together for Daddy.”

To date, more than 700 people have seen Daddy and DuPree is quick to credit those who have helped bring this drama to the public.

“We have had so many adults and groups help us with this. The Sunrise Theatre and the City of Fort Pierce were so gracious in letting us stage Daddy there,” she said. The exposure, hopefully, will help the organization garner some funds necessary for their next project.

“These teens feel strongly about human trafficking,” DuPree said. “They want to take this production on the road to warn their peers about the dangers of trafficking. They see it as a preventive effort — educating their peers on how easy it is to be lured.”

Florida is third in the nation in human trafficking crimes (according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center) and the teens are trying to raise funds to take their show on the road over the summer to get the message out to teens throughout Florida. Here is where the business degree DuPree earned will get a workout — organizing a traveling show. Daddy is a series of vignettes that follows the story of a middle-school girl who is courted by an older boy and directed to a modeling agency set up to move young girls into sex trafficking.

No longer sitting at home completing her solitary coding work, DuPree seems joyful and content in her new job of guiding youth through their mission of awareness and prevention. The teens have learned stage presence and teamwork through this production, with more lessons to come as they take to the road with DuPree at the helm.

If you are interested in helping the teens raise funds for their trip to spread their message of awareness across Florida this summer, call 924-0470.



SONIA DUPREE

Age: 41
Lives In: Port St. Lucie
Occupation: Executive director, E.N.D. It! Corp.
Family: Husband, Strather “Skip” DuPree; three daughters: Simone, Sydney and Sinclaire
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, Savannah State University
Hobbies: Writing skits and plays; working with youth
Who Inspires Me: “Youth who are pushing hard, beyond their circumstances. Youth today have a lot more to deal with than my generation did. It inspires me knowing that they just need a little help, guidance, motivation and someone to care.”
Something People Don’t Know About Me: “I was a computer programmer with IBM for 15 years.”