The Public Humanist

High School Story Slam a Hit!

Editor’s Note: The art of storytelling has worked its way into Mass Humanities’ understanding of what the humanities can encompass in a few ways over the past couple of years. In December '11 and the December before that, Mass Humanities awarded the nonprofit StoriesLive with grants to teach storytelling techniques to high school students (and their teachers!) in Boston-area schools. When I saw their first-annual story slam competition at the Cambridge Public Library last year, I was blown away. Using five simple but infinitely inspiring story prompts, finalists told well crafted, three-minute personal stories. The auditorium was packed with supportive family members and friends. Serendipitously, another grantee who uses storytelling to inform her performances in a comedy duo was sitting behind me, curious about how a high school story slam would work. We glanced at each other as things got rolling: this was good. Please read on to hear about the achievements of this year’s finalists. Bravo!

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On Saturday, April 28, twenty-eight Boston-area high school juniors and seniors told their stories at City Year HQ in Boston as part of the rousing conclusion of StoriesLive®’s second consecutive season. StoriesLive® remains the only program of its kind, hosting the only intramural and regional high school story slams in the U.S. and engaging nearly two thousand students in Massachusetts in the art of storytelling this year alone.

“We heard such AMAZING stories from all of [the] students, I am still smiling,” beamed massmouth, inc. Executive Director and program director at StoriesLive®, Norah Dooley.

The wildly successful 2011 launch of the program introduced over a thousand high school students from the Commonwealth to the art of storytelling through the StoriesLive® curriculum. Last year also marked the inaugural Final High School Scholarship Slam, which awarded $5,000 in scholarship funds to five winners.

All of last year’s participants -- Andover High School, Boston Latin Academy, Everett High School, Lynn Classical High School, and Newburyport High School – signed on again this year. They were joined by Chelsea High School, Revere High School, South Community High School in Worcester and the Humanities and Leadership Development High School in Lawrence.

After months of preparation, in-class workshops, coaching by massmouth educators and thousands of shared real-life experiences, the best storytellers from each high school met to compete for another $5,000 in scholarship prizes.

As a first time listener this year, I was genuinely surprised by the courage and skill of the tellers. Stories ran the gamut, from truly moving -- teens struggling with drug addiction, losing parents – to riotously funny tales about microwave mishaps and inertia at work. Through it all, our student emcee and co-host, Alex Tauzon (a junior at Revere High School) was charming and confident – keeping the mood light with an easy humor and a few stories of his own.

In short, we laughed, cried, gasped and applauded -- and twice, a conflicted panel of judges announced the winners. “With so many excellent stories, it was hard to pick just three from each session,” said judge Julius Jones. The sentiment was echoed by all of the judges.

First place and $1,000 went to Junior Fernando Ortiz from Revere High School and Senior Amario Malcolm from Boston Latin Academy. Runners-up ($500 each): Juniors Alan Estes from Newburyport, Angelina Ferullo from Everett and Seniors Caylen Bryant (Andover) and Shavar Lazarus (Boston Latin Academy).

The Audience Choice award ($500 each) went to Junior Justin Alexander (South Community High) and Senior Varvarra Valentin (Lynn Classical). massmouth choice ($100 each) was awarded to Juniors Jennifer MonJoie (Revere), Bahiya Nasuuna (Chelsea), Karen Hua (Andover) and Senior Jason Hittinger (Revere).

Support from local cultural councils as administered by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the generous audiences of massmouth Greater Boston story slam series and a project grant from Mass Humanities were all crucial to this season’s success. Volunteer effort from local storytellers/educators through massmouth accounted for over 50% of the support that made the program possible

With several other high schools already expressing interest, we look forward to expanding the program and can’t wait to hear the stories next year has in store!

For more information, check us out on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at:

http://massmouth.org

http://massmouth.blogspot.com/

Interested in bring StoriesLive® to your school?

Contact: Norah Dooley, Program Director, StoriesLive®

Email: norah@massmouth.com

Phone: (617) 460-3544

PHOTOS by Paula Junn

© 2014 The Valley Advocate