WORTHINGTON - A critically acclaimed 2018 movie, “Eighth Grade,” is showing at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center this weekend.


At 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, the feature film directorial debut of 28-year-old writer/comedian Bo Burnham will be available to Worthington-area audiences.


A realistic portrayal of adolescent experiences and angst, seen through the life of eighth-grader Kayla Day (depicted by actor Elsie Fisher) during her last week of middle school, “Eighth Grade” touches on many topics that teachers and staff at local schools address on a daily basis.


“It’s so normal for adolescents to have personal insecurities,” said Carrie Adams, one of two school counselors at Worthington Middle School.


“Kids that age are trying to figure out who they are, whether they should try to be like other kids or just be themselves - it’s a challenging time.


“I’m excited the auditorium is offering this movie, and I will definitely be going to see it this weekend; I’ve heard great things about it.”


Adams, along with fellow counselor Justin Breske, is in the midst of promoting a few special activities at WMS during October, which happens to be National Bullying Prevention Month.


“On Oct. 24 we will mark Unity Day, with everyone encouraged to wear orange as a sign of unity and show of support for anyone who has been bullied,” explained Adams.


“We also have special bookmarks that will be given to all students next week that talk about showing kindness, accepting and including others and being supportive.”


At Worthington High School, school social worker Lindsay Jenniges is following through with “Mental Health Mondays,” which involves her sending emails and Schoology notices to all students and teachers with tips such as the following:


  • When you see someone being bullied, be brave and stand up for them.


  • Bullies have been known to back off when others stand up for victims.


  • If you don’t feel safe, get the help of an adult immediately.


“Each Monday throughout the school year, I send out mental health information and tips to both students and staff to promote awareness, decrease the stigma surrounding mental health issues and offer valid information, all in the hopes of helping students increase or maintain positive mental health,” said Jenniges.


The movie “Eighth Grade” is one that Tammy Makram, managing director of Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, believes can serve in aiding adults in understanding the struggles today’s teens face when it comes to social anxiety, social media and present-day social stresses.


“Young adolescents these days experience the same pressures as always, but the additional pressures introduced by social media and the Internet bring a different dimension,” Makram said.


“Those of us who are parents don’t all have clues about that, so this movie could be as useful for parents and adults to see as for kids.”


Adams concurs.


“As a parent, I think I would go to this movie with my child because it could lead to further discussions,” said Adams. “The topics can be difficult and challenging, but provide a way to open the door to these conversations.”


Adams notes a lengthy list of worries adolescents deal with on a daily basis: acne, clothes, body image, homework, relationships and more.


“It’s difficult for their growing, developing brains to handle all of that, and when you throw in the social media aspect - the fact that images they see on social media are crafted and curated and not necessarily reflective of reality - it’s huge,” said Adams.


“Parents should do their best to pay attention to what images and conversations their kids are seeing online, because they may not reflect reality but it still affects kids as if it were reality.”


Like the heroine of “Eighth Grade,” Adams knows students are searching for a simple level of validation and support.


“We’re trying to help students see that it is OK to be different, that it’s okay to do what you’re interested in,” said Adams.


“We can still include and accept each other for who we are, and we’re all different-but at the same time, that’s what makes us so special.”


Added Makram, “A movie like ‘Eighth Grade’ might help kids realize they’re not all alone in what they’re experiencing.”


Adams affirmed, “This could be an important movie for students to see - but with a parent along, to hopefully inspire those conversations about what’s really going on.”


“Eighth Grade” runs at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St., Worthington. Doors open a half hour prior to each show time; concessions are available. “Eighth Grade” is rated R for heavy use of social media, mental health issues and some sexuality; those under 17 will not be admitted without an accompanying adult.