Everyone has a story to tell.
That was the message of the Social Innovation Collaboratory’s first-ever Our Story event. The storytelling event, held on Nov. 15 at the Rose Hill campus, gave five Fordham students a unique opportunity to share powerful stories about their lives in a safe, empathetic, and empowering environment.
“I think that we can be so accustomed to putting our own perspectives outward that we don’t take the time to genuinely listen to someone else’s perspectives,” said social entrepreneur Charlotte Vitak, the founder of the public storytelling initiative, My Story. Vitak worked with the Fordham Social Innovation team to organize their own storytelling event. “It’s a moment to kind of sit back and reflect.”
The personal stories were as diverse as they were thought-provoking: One student shared her experience struggling to find herself as a refugee while another student recounted a family tragedy that helped him to explore the healing power of forgiveness.
Sally Brander, a Fordham College at Rose Hill sophomore, shared her experiences as a Korean American adoptee grappling with the pressures of exceptionalism.
“It’s natural to think that someone may be better than you, but I don’t think [exceptionalism]should be a constant pressure,” she said. “In the same way that I can be an incredible person, I also give myself permission to be average.”
For Sheron Cyrus, a U.S. Army veteran and senior at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS), sharing his experiences with PTSD was therapeutic.
“There are a lot of people coming back from conflict zones that need help,” he said. “Mental health is a part of total health so it’s an ongoing battle.”
At the end of the event, students were asked to write down words on a Post-it note that described their impressions of the event and what they gained from hearing each other’s stories. They then posted their notes on a wall in the back of the room.
Joe Zoyhofski, a Gabelli School first-year student, wrote down the word, “awareness.”
“I probably crossed paths with many of these people, and I would have never imagined that they were struggling with so much,” he said.
Carey Weiss, director of sustainability initiatives and social innovation, said the goal of Our Story was to create empathy and solidarity in the Fordham community, especially in moments when students face setbacks or become overwhelmed by college life.
“As we try to create a diverse and inclusive environment for students, events like this help us to create a bridge and connect on a deeper level.”