On May 1, 2015, six Environmental Charter High School students stepped in front of the mic and shared true and personal stories about themselves to an audience of family and friends. The stories elicited a range of response – from raucous laughter to quiet contemplation – as the students shared from their own life experiences. The stories were crafted as part of The Moth Education Program’s High School StorySLAM. The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Through its ongoing programs, The Moth has presented more than ten thousand stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. With Moth originating in New York City, Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) was the first school outside of New York to hold the High School StorySLAM in 2014.
Over the course of five weeks, two ECHS faculty advisors and an instructor from The Moth met with with students, discussing story structure and what makes a good story great. “There is very little writing done in the workshop,” explained The Moth facilitator Jessica Williamson. “We tell stories out loud. Every moment is a shared experience, which is what storytelling is about in the first place.”
Students cited a variety of reasons for wanting to participate in the workshop, from overcoming a fear of speaking, to being listened to without being interrupted. “I liked the idea of telling my story and having people be there just to listen,” said 11th grader Christabelle “Charlie” Hurtado-Mendoza, who shared her aspiration of becoming an artist, rather than pursuing a more traditional career path that her family had in mind for her.
The impact of this seemingly simple process of telling a story was staggering, as students gained newfound empathy, confidence and life perspective.
“This program is as invested in the process and aftermath, as it is in the actual presentation. Students were shy at first, but definitely grew and owned the space, and later owned their stories. Some of these young people are some of my shyest students. Since StorySLAM, I have seen them speak up more in class.”
– ECHS faculty advisor Sara Diaz
“As soon as I stepped out and saw the crowd, my mind went blank. I was having an inner battle with my thoughts – one part of me wanted to cower while the other wanted to shine. In the end, I stood on stage and gave my story. I thought about how dramatic and horrifying performing would be. Instead, the crowd was enthusiastic, interested, and encouraging to me and my peers.”
– Eleventh grader Robin Einsley, who spoke of her childhood dreams.
“The confidence and fearlessness of the participants was most impressive. Each student worked the audience by playing to their individual strengths and personalities, and they made their stories come to life.”
– Arisela Hernandez, ECHS Faculty Advisor
“We were so thrilled that The Moth returned to Environmental Charter High School. Giving our students the opportunity to tell their personal stories live on stage in front of their peers and the ECHS community is a rare gift that will further prepare them for college and life.”
– Mandy Breuer, ECHS Principal
Here is a clip from Tesia Scott’s performance:
And another from Emily Spence’s performance:
About The Moth
The Moth is an acclaimed not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling, and a recipient of a 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation MacArthur Award for Creative & Effective Institutions (MACEI). Through its ongoing programs—The Moth Mainstage, The Moth StorySLAMs, The Moth Community & Education Programs, and Moth Corporate Programs—The Moth has presented more than ten thousand stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide. The Moth podcast is downloaded nearly 25 million times a year, and the Peabody Award-winning The Moth Radio Hour, produced by Jay Allison and presented by PRX, The Public Radio Exchange, airs weekly on radio stations nationwide. The new Moth Mobile App for iOS and Android, and the international bestseller, The Moth: 50 True Stories (Hyperion), are available now.