Storytelling and More…

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The ability to tell your story can be cathartic and that is exactly the experience a number of our students had recently at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. Through the generous support of one of our board members, Lyn Spector, we have had access to a group of storytellers who have helped some of our students and residents express their stories and then see them performed by a cadre of professional actors. The recent event in downtown Los Angeles was different in that over several days the students were actually assisted to tell their stories themselves. The event was made possible through the efforts of The Moth and Participant Media in conjunction with the release of the film, “The Help.”
All the stories had the same theme–standing up, as in standing up for yourself. This theme is very consistent with the story portrayed in “The Help,” when a number of domestic workers come together to tell their stories of service in a still segregated South.
One of our residents recounted his poignant story of struggle, relating the improvement he has achieved and how he reached the difficult decision recently to move on from Hillsides, return home and accept the challenges this move presents. He ended his story by saying, “choices come with costs.” How true! Such an important lesson to learn, this one will serve him well throughout his life.
It is a story of self knowledge, courage, conviction and purpose and it points to one of the greatest gifts we offer our residents–to leave Hillsides enabled to stand up for themselves and understand the personal “costs” that must be calculated with  each decision.
I was inspired by their poise and ability to articulate what is a difficult story to share, but I could see in their faces the sense of accomplishment and freedom to claim their stories as milestones along their journeys.
Aside from the support that this project received from The Moth and The Young Storytellers Foundation, this would not be possible without the vision and determination of two of our finest staff members: Rebecca Ruswick, one of our teachers at the Hillsides Education Center, and Sherri Ginsberg, our librarian, who along with the residential staff supported these residents throughout the week and were there with me to applaud their accomplishment.
These are challenging time for those of us committed to serving such vulnerable youth, but it is worth the effort when the “return” is so great and we are able to see them stand up for themselves.

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