Storyworks Spreads Student Voices

Throughout the next couple of weeks, students may find that an organization called Storyworks has been at Dimond, especially if you are in Dimond English teacher Marcus Reese’s English I or Honors English II classes.

Storyworks is an organization dedicated to spreading the voices of students throughout Alaska and facilitating the process of sharing one’s personal stories. 

Dimond Junior Taylor Heckart, involved with Storyworks for over a year, said, “Storyworks believes in the power of storytelling to build connections through both listening and telling.”

Reese said, “I believe in stories, and I think stories matter. I think they help make us who we are. We’ve been telling stories for a long time from cave walls, telling the story of the hunt, telling the story of the adventure.”

Storyworks also organize story workshops, where professional coaches come into high school classrooms to help students share their stories. Every year, Reese holds a story workshop for his English classes, with the help from these professionals as well as upperclassmen mentors who have done it in the past.

Reese said, “Reagan Brooks is who runs Storyworks, and the two of us got talking about stories and how important they are and how powerful they are, and about five years ago we started collaborating and brought Storyworks to Dimond. This is our fifth year running our students through the two-week workshop.”

Dimond Junior Jasmine An said, “Last year was pretty exciting and I loved the stories, and I wanted to do it again. Last year I had fun, but it was also pretty stressful because I didn’t really prepare at all, but I also liked hearing everybody else’s stories.”

Upperclassmen like An go in and help out the sophomores in the Story Workshop, and made sure they were prepared to share their stories.

An said, “I basically listened to the Sophomore’s stories and told them some advice on what to add and how to tell it, like pacing. It was a lot of advice on whether they should add something and make it longer and more entertaining.”

Reese’s students get the chance to improve their public speaking as well as bond with their classmates through a very fun and engaging way.

Reese said, “We tell stories all the time, and to do it this way in an English class puts a bit of structure around the storytelling experience and helps us recognize we have more stories to tell. Then you start hearing other stories and that matters, too, because you start realizing we’re all in this together.”

An said, “I do think it’s good for students to do this, because it is a bonding experience and it was really memorable, especially when it was a crazy story. Also it’s a great experience of practicing public speaking.”

Heckart said, “If you’re the type of person who enjoys storytelling and working on projects that impact your community, I highly recommend Storyworks. I’m constantly given opportunities to interact with youth my age and mentor younger students.”

Storyworks sets the stage for students for them to tell their own personal stories that they might otherwise not get the chance to share to such a large audience.

Reese said, “I do it in English class because here we are, in a class around literature, a class around stories. My big quote is ‘The stories we live are as important as the stories we read,’ and the idea there is that English class isn’t just about studying what published authors say is good literature or the right literature to read. 

“I think English class is also about our own stories and so those are the stories we live and this is a great opportunity to get students and myself thinking and telling our own life stories.”

Storyworks also has a program for students to get the voice of the youth out there.

Heckart said, “I’m a member of SAYiT, Storywork’s Alaska’s Youth Team, and we work to promote youth voice. I’ve helped put on storytelling shows and helped with the grant distribution process. 

“Storyworks honestly opens up so many avenues. It was thanks to them that I was able to travel to Ireland last June and be a part of a group presenting at the World Anti-Bullying Forum.”

Students involved with SAYiT can expect instant gratification for their work, and is an amazing program to be a part of.

Heckart said, “SAYiT is incredibly flexible, and we try to be as accommodating as possible to members’ schedules. Some people can only come to meetings, and some people can donate a lot of time outside of meetings as well, and no matter what it’s such a fun experience.

“Especially because we’re so involved in what we do, we see a direct impact on the projects that we do. We’re currently looking for more members for SAYiT, and you don’t have to have gone through the storytelling workshops to join.”