Students Participate in Unique Storytelling Experience at QU

By Ashlynn Worley

It all started with a guy who had a camera and an idea.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, one man asked residents to write a love letter to the city entitled “Dear New Orleans.”

His idea ignited an international organization that launched from Harvard University in 2011.

The organization transformed into Dear World, traveling the globe and connecting people through a unique storytelling experience.

About 275 people took part in the Dear World College Tour at Quincy University thanks to the financial assistance from a non-local grant, anonymous private donor, and the University’s existing budget.

Senior Noah Randall did not know what to expect when he was asked to participate.

“At first I was a little skeptical and then once he [facilitator] started to explain it I was like oh, this isn’t a bad idea,” Randall said.

The main mission of the Dear World project is to inspire people from all walks of life to open up, create conversations, and share their stories.

Hannah Ellis worried she might not be as open-minded as others. By the end of the session, she had a change of mind and heart.

“I think some people really struggle with opening up to other people because they don’t like being vulnerable but honestly just trust the process, trust that it’s going to be ok and that it’s ok to let people in sometimes,” Ellis said.

Ellis added she thinks this experience is valuable for everyone.

“I fully believe in learning from our awkwardness so I think that being put in an awkward situation, especially with this group of freshman, is going to be good for them.”

Program leader James Hamilton guided participants through a step-by-step process toward discovering a story only they could tell.

“We [Dear World] believe that stories are a meaningful way to bring people together, to see that we have more in common then we do different, and to have some conversations that are sometimes difficult to have,” Hamilton said.

By the end of the session, people discover a unique part of their story they want to share.

Participants then use dry-erase markers to write their special message on a part of their body and this is a conversation starter.

The beauty of using a dry-erase marker is that no matter what color your skin is, the message still shows up.

Then everyone lines up to have their portrait taken by a Dear World photographer.

Randall said he chose the words ‘we believe in you’ in hopes of inspiring others.

“Basically I’ve been in quite a roller coaster, ups and downs in college, so before my parents leave me every time they say ‘we believe in you,’ so I figured sharing that with some of the freshman coming in might help them in their journey like I needed help in mine,” Randall said.

Quincy University plans to host a portrait reveal of all the participants within the next few months.



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