By Laurie Gordon SPARTA — Erika Lupo has a gift. She can go into a room of students, ask them to brainstorm about a certain topic and within a few minutes, she can create an impromptu script to mirror and expand their ideas. She takes such measures to build confidence, self-expression, teamwoprk and curiosity in the young.She also uses presentations at school assemblies and workshops to combat bullying.“I love going into schools to present and I always include how I was bullied in seventh and eighth grades,” she said. “Sure, you want kids who are bullying to understand how hurtful it is, but it's also largely about those kids that are somewhere in the middle. They aren't the bullies or the victims. They're the ones who need to step in and do something to stop it.” In her assemblies and workshops, which she does for elementary, middle and high schools, Lupo utilizes break-out groups and an original film she made as well as other modalities to engage students' hearts, heads and hands in her programs. “It's important to send the powerful messages of anti-bullying and speaking up,” Lupo said. “You have to be creative, innovative, energized, powerful, fun, educational and engaging. We also address cyberbullying.” 15 years of Acting-A-PartLupo is a certified teacher who, after years of teaching, parlayed her education background into starting Acting-a-Part, in Sparta. She was a tenured, well-paid teacher when two things came into play to spur a leap of faith to start the business: her childhood and the birth of her son, Trent. Lupo's father, Otto Salamon, had worked his way from a job in the mail room at the Morris Agency to producing his own movies, commercials and TV shows. Over the years, he'd brought his little girl along and she'd been in some of his productions. When Lupo's son was born, memories of this past bloomed and she realized that she could combine her teaching and background acting. With her father's encouragement, she started her own acting school. Now, 15 years later, the studio has grown to include locations all over the United States but is still based on the same philosophy that there are no auditions and every kid plays “a leading role.” Acting-a-Part's original studio, on Woodport Road in Sparta, is the nucleus for this nationally acclaimed franchise. Lupo has grown that studio to include both floors of the building and has also thought outside the box with the inspiring way in which she and her staff coach students. “Taking Acting-a-Part to a franchise level has been extremely exciting but also a challenge," she said. "We make sure each franchise holds up our standards and visit each often.” In addition to the Sparta studio and the other New Jersey studio in Ridgewood, locations now include: Carnegie, Pennsylvania, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and Hermosa Beach, California. The franchise includes access to Lupo's library of thousands of scripts, most of which were written by Lupo. She continues to write and can do it at the drop of a hat, drawing on her college major of creative writing and publishing. About four years ago, to help spawn the franchises, Lupo hired Thomasina O'Boyle.“We're like yin and yang,” Lupo said. “She is the organized business side and I'm the creative side.” “It's a pleasure to work with [Lupo],” O'Boyle said. “We each have our specialty and it centers upon the fact that we're all about the children and bringing a positive, learning atmosphere where they can thrive. And they thrive at all ages and abilities.”Evianna Hawkins is one of Acting-A-Part's teachers. “Acting-A-Part is something very unique," she said. "It takes the intimidation out of acting, takes the cell phones out of kids hands and teaches them a great deal of self-confidence.”The acting classes teach students (who range from age four through adult) everything from reading skills to public speaking to all sorts of acting and performing. The by-product is great self-esteem and self-confidence. A number of students have gone on to careers in the film, TV and Broadway. Lupo said, although that's been wonderful, it's not necessarily the goal. “Our philosophy is to teach our students to dream big and that the can achieve anything. We teach them to present themselves with confidence, how to work as a team and draw on our extensive collection of costumes, sound system and lighting to bring shows to life.” She added, “In a world where kids often communicate just fine through texting, when you put them face-to-face, they don't talk. Acting and all that we teach here is about communication and self expression. Especially in these times, this is so important.” Creatively keeping Acting-A-Part up with the times and progressing into the future have even earned Lupo cover feature in Investment News. About Acting-A-PartActing-A-Part teaches the world of musical theater, Film, TV, Improvisation, Scene/Monologue study and stage productions. Productions include costumes, live music, professionally directed, choreographed and produced for a live audience. Acting-A-Part also offers film workshops through which students learn all of aspects of being in an actual movie. They then film it locally on location with a local student film crew from a school that has a visual arts department. Acting-A-Part then holds a professional movie premiere at a local movie theater for family and friends to see. Summer Camps include camps for film, theater and TV. There's always some sort of class available at any time of the year and prices are kept extremely reasonable. Acting-A-Part is a great venue for birthday parties. The birthday child/teen works with the party leaders to put together a show, cast their guests in the production, and then the party ends with a stellar performance with full costumes, music, and lots of memories.From going into schools to do highly effective, unique anti-bullying presentations to all she has built to inspire youth of all ages and abilities with their acting, Lupo truly encourages a love of the arts and theater while building self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment. For further information about Lupo's anti-bullying presentations and Acting-A-Part, call 973.879.3651 or 973.879.3650 or visit the company's website at www.actingapart.com.