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Friends of the 22-year-old high-priced call girl named “Kristen” are now rallying around the woman they knew as Ashley Youmans of Wall, N.J.

“We’re just trying to keep her head up and keep her strong, have her look at this as a positive,” high school friend Joe Pawlak tells People.

Pawlak, who graduated from Wall H.S. in 2003, a year ahead of Youmans – who now goes by Ashley Dupre – says she’s only human and “people make mistakes.”

“She’s just trying to work through it,” says Pawlak.

THG NOTE: Come on Pawlak. The girl slings the poon for thousands of dollars an hour. We’re not judging, but there’s no “mistake” about this.

Ashley Alexandra Dupre was identified this week as “Kristen” – the escort linked by federal authorities to New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who resigned.

Bevin Doherty, who knew Ashley Youmans on the Pop Warner cheerleading squad in middle school, tells People that, in contrast to statements Ashley made on her MySpace page about her home life, Ashley lived with her mom.

“Her mom would pick her up from cheering at school in a Jaguar,” says Doherty, who assumed Ashley, who wore designer clothes, was wealthy.

Set to graduate from the Wall H.S. class of 2004, Ashley Youmans disappeared near the end of her sophomore year. At some point, Youmans legally became Ashley DiPietro, but later took on the “stage” name of Ashley Alexandra Dupre.

“When she left high school,” said Doherty, “me and others thought she left to go get married. That’s what I was under the belief … that she met someone and had a ring and left to get married. We always wondered what happened to her.”

A teacher of Ashley Dupre, Gerald Basiak, 58, recalls her as a very kind person, but a “B-C student who really wasn’t focused on anything.”

As for Ashley’s being caught up in the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal: “I would never expect this, there were never indications of any problems at home.”