An Alaska grown project hopes to help high schoolers overcome their fears by sharing their stories.

Story Works Alaska encourages students find their voice by writing and sharing personal stories about their past.

"My work with SAYiT (Story Works Youth Advisory Team) and Story Works Alaska started about four years ago," Bartlett High School English teacher Alysyn Thibault said. "It involved bringing the program into the classroom with my freshman students. It was meant to help them come up with ideas, draft, practice and ultimately perform their own first-person true story."

The program also helped the students build confidence, courage and a deeper connection with their peers.

"The students get to work on and share these stories," Thibault said. "Some of them are really funny. I heard a really great story about third-degree burns from a hot pocket. Other are really heart wrenching, like the student who went to Standing Rock and stood up for her beliefs and her homeland. Students who come out about their sexuality, school bullying-- there is an incredible variety-- just like the kids themselves."

Daanis Teeple, a senior at Bartlett High School, told the story of her experience at Standing Rock in North Dakota.

"I feel this is pretty important because it gives me a platform," Teeple said. "I've never told my story like this before. This is so good for important social issues."

Students are offered the chance to work on a story they'd like to tell. Once they decide to try it, they meet with story coaches to help them write and tell their stories in the first person.

"I said, 'you know what, this is a really good opportunity,'" Bartlett High School senior Cornilius Nelson said. "To help others people like me overcome their problems and give them courage.

The project is unique and only takes place once a year. For the past two years, it has been held at the Anchorage Museum. On Thursday, April 5, the students shared their stories in front of a packed house.

"Story Works Alaska was founded by our president Regan Brooks," board member Britta Hambre said. "Along with teachers at West High School and other members of the community. They wanted to bring an energy around storytelling. We work with English teachers to provide the storytelling curriculum and it usually only happens once a year, depending on availability. Once the students have their stories polished, they present it in front of their class and then they come here on stage at the museum. We've been here twice in the past three years."

Story Works began as a small, grassroots project at West Anchorage High School in 2014 but has since grown to include more than 1,500 students at schools in the communities of Anchorage and Unalakleet.

Story Works Alaska supports high school students as they prepare, practice and share aloud the true, first-person stories that matter most to them. 

The project was first founded by adults, but students are increasingly involved in moving it forward.

Story Works students now serve as story coaches, host live storytelling events at schools and in the community, produce podcasts and radio hours, and are now even to national conferences to teach teachers from around the country how to support student stories at their schools.

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