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The Westfield Voice

Storytelling Hour: Digital Stories from Your Peers

Sam McGhee
Up close view of videographer filming an interview.

The English Department at Westfield State University hosted a video storytelling event on October 13th to help students tell the narratives of their lives.

This event, called “Storytelling Hour: Digital Stories from Your Peers,” was held in the Arno Maris Gallery. 

The format of this event was that students from an English class had filmed and narrated short films. They would then show these films at the event with a short introduction before each one.

Westfield held this event to give students a platform to tell their stories. Many of these stories were regarding the transition from high school to college. The topic of the Covid-19 pandemic and its effects on mental health was a major point of discussion.

“Be yourself, even if you are struggling, whether it’s your health or your mental health. Take time for yourself and you will find a community to surround yourself in that will support you and make everything… everyday feel like a safe space for you to be able to share your stories like this,” said Isabella Moniz, a student at Westfield and a speaker at the event in an interview after the event.

Many of the audience members were captivated by the stories that the speakers shared. “I was pleased to see and hear students expressing their emotions and difficulties – opening themselves up to being vulnerable and sharing their vulnerable moments,” said Sarah Lazare, the Director of the Banacos Academic Center, and a member of the audience.

This event was one of many that was held for Homecoming weekend on campus. The Athletic Hall of Fame Induction, the Parenzo Hall ribbon cutting, and a Jazz Brunch were other events that Westfield hosted for Homecoming Weekend. 

In the room, there was a podium, adorned with the university’s seal, where the speakers stood which faced six rows of chairs where the audience would sit. Next to the podium was a television that played the videos that the speakers had created.

Most of the videos show students recounting their personal experiences and why promoting good mental health is important.

“I spent my third year of college wondering what happened to the old me. Why can’t I reach this road to consistency? I spent all year in the routine of realization, reflection, and lacking the discipline to overturn this intricate part of my growth journey,” said Ketia Valme, a Westfield student and a speaker at the event.

“It until wasn’t my advisor, Celeste Donovan, reminded me that there was no point in seeking the old me because I was no longer her. She told me that the weird thing about growth is that we have to readjust for our present self and create a new world that benefits us right now,” she added.

“For these students, they demonstrated what they were able to accomplish because they shared with others or their journal. It also demonstrated that journaling is one step people can take to begin the process of addressing their emotions, anxiety and depression. It was powerful in that way,” Lazare said.

After all the speakers told their stories, food and drinks were offered and both speakers and audience members mingled and socialized with each other. During this time, the speakers were congratulated for having the courage to share their stories and their narratives.

Though this event is only held once a year, Westfield State University seems likely to host more events that allow students to showcase their art and tell their stories.

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