This semester, I’ve had the pleasure of taking the Honors Program leadership class, “Harnessing the Power of the Story.” In past years, Honors leadership courses have devoted the entire semester to a class-led project in which students explored their strengths and weaknesses as team members. This year, however, the program has changed a bit. Though the original course, “Leaders in Action,” is still offered, professors have developed other courses with a leadership designation and a particular focus. I’m so glad they have because this change in curriculum allowed me to take “Harnessing the Power of the Story,” one of my favorite classes this semester.
For the first six weeks of the course, Nancy Walsh, our warm and enthusiastic professor, instructed the class in storytelling techniques. We honed our awareness of audience and perfected our delivery. We questioned the purpose of stories and explored how best to inspire people. The last six weeks of the course were dedicated to a class-led project in which we put the principles discussed in class to good use. Nancy served as a resource and mentor, but we were largely autonomous. The project could be anything of our choosing as long as it related to storytelling… So, what to choose?
After much deliberation, the class decided our time would be best served relaying the stories of Glenside. The charming little town is a hop, skip, and a jump away, yet we so rarely utilize it to its full potential. By telling stories about the people in town and experiences to be had there, we hoped to inspire Arcadians to explore Glenside to find their own experiences and make their own stories, thereby stimulating the local economy and stimulating bonds. In other words, we hoped to make Glenside a little more like home.
So, we began planning the creation of an online collection of written stories and devising new ways to connect students to their surrounding community. Some spoke with store owners in Glenside and wrote about their stories, others wrote about the fun personal experiences they’ve had in town. Some photographed, sang, or contributed to our Facebook page. We utilized our talents and worked as a team for something about which we were truly passionate.
Last Friday, this project finally came to fruition as we published our collected stories and promoted the final product at a table in the Chat (a place to eat on campus). From our table, we raffled off gift certificates donated by local stores, hoping to provide a few lucky students with incentive to abandon campus for an afternoon in favor of a free manicure or some antique shopping. In the same vein, we raffled off dinner for two at the Blue Comet on our Facebook page, giving the winner a perfect excuse to enjoy town. We gave out menus for local restaurants accompanied by dumdums with our Facebook address attached. We recounted tales of first library cards, window shopping, and enjoying lunch at Elcy’s. Best of all, we demonstrated our excitement about our lovely town, Glenside. And I think it was contagious.