By James Baratta
The Her Story program mandated an unforgettable and beneficial experience to the writers who participated. The workshop itself is run by Barbara Levin at Hofstra University and Kelly Dass. It was founded by Erika Duncan. The participants are a mix of college and high school students. A select few of high school students (interns) are chosen for this program and it is considered an honor to even be recommended for it. The writers work together over a 10 week course to critique the writing of others and write personal memoirs.
The program itself began to support women who had a history of domestic abuse where, in a safe environment they could write their story. It then branched out into a workshop program where members were urged to undertake the “dare to care” challenge. This challenge was used to promote awareness for other struggles present in other people’s lives in order to become more empathetic as a person. They were also encouraged to write their “one page moment” which outlined their struggle or struggles.
One student said “I felt like I had a voice and the opportunity to truly be myself. I was able to finally be honest with myself and share my problems, my joy, my sadness, my story with other people who actually wanted to listen”.
Something I noticed, after being a part of the program for a couple years, was that the critique given focuses on the development of the story rather than the implementation of correct grammar; for the most part the stories flowed. The writers came already with knowledge as to how to construct pieces of such a caliber. As a writer, I feel as if each piece flowed because of the genuine value of the writer’s emotions during its construction.
The stories shared impacted me in such a profound way. Every Tuesday, I had to prepare myself to face the wrath of reality and cross my mental doorstep. The program truly opened my eyes to the struggles different people undergo on a daily basis. I live now with a more clear understanding that somewhere, not so far away, there is someone facing the unspeakable.
However, when sharing these uncut versions of reality with each other a bond, similar to that lifelong friends share, was formed. It felt as if the other members had been there the whole time, supporting each individual when life became merciless. Another student mentions “we connected on many levels and comforted each other in our times of need”. I couldn’t agree more, this program has changed my life and directed my energies to improving myself. It has also urged me to be aware of other people and their stories.
I see the perception attained after being a part of this program as a gift. I now understand that everyone has something they face in life they wish wasn’t a part of it. It’s not just me and not you either, everyone goes through something at some point in their lives.
That is what I can share with you, but what I can’t share, are the cruel, genuine circumstances, certain individuals have faced. This unfairness is astonishing and persuasive in its desire to truly dare someone to care.