Final Blog Post – My Takeaways

What’s The Story has been an incredible experience. I’ve learned so much, and made so many new connections. I was so passionate about my topic (body image), and my group helped me to view the issue in ways I hadn’t ever before. The What’s The Story community as a whole allowed me to feel safe when taking risks, being vulnerable, and working hard. During my time at What’s The Story I improved my learning in many ways – through self direction, responsible and involved citizenship, Informed and Integrative thinking, and clear and effective communication.

Self Direction

During my time working with What’s the Story, I strongly improved my self direction skills. I learned how to better control what I do as an individual in a group. I learned how to manage my own learning in a way that benefitted my entire group. For example, my group focussed on body image as our topic. We would meet as whole once a month, and speak over the phone a few times in between. But other than that, we were all responsible for our own individual parts of the project. And it wasn’t the same type of project that would happen in school. I was trusted to manage my own time and my own learning. There weren’t teachers there to give me instructions each day, or to give me consistent feedback on my work. It was a great experience to be given so much trust and responsibility – and I definitely didn’t take it lightly. I spent a lot of time on each task I had, and made sure the work I was doing would benefit my group and the topic at hand. Now, I wouldn’t say I did a perfect job with self direction. There were certainly bumps along the way, and times when I reached out for help. What’s so different about What’s The Story compared to school, for example, is that there is an entire support system of people there when you need help, but if you feel comfortable with what you’re doing, they trust you to make smart, thoughtful decisions, and manage your own learning. This is why What’s The Story helped me greatly improve my self direction skills.

Responsible and Involved Citizenship

I feel as though I have improved greatly with my responsible and involved citizenship since beginning What’s The Story. Not only was I able to become a more involved and responsible citizen in my What’s the Story community, but I also felt that I was able to become a much more involved citizen in my community as a whole. What’s the Story helped empower me to build the confidence and strength to become more involved as a responsible citizen in my community, and to try to make it a better environment. All of my peers and mentors helped me to explore new routes along my way to improving this skill, allowing me the confidence to better use it for the rest of my life. Because of What’s the Story, the project I did, and the interactions and connections I made, I know that I am now a more responsible and involved citizen than ever before.

Informed and Integrative Thinking

One thing that I definitely know I’ve improved upon during my time at What’s the Story is my informed and integrative thinking. Because of all the challenges, coaching, and teamwork we were guided with, I was able to think outside of the box while keeping my team’s clear mission statement in mind. It was an experience I’d never been through up until that point. We were given the freedom to be creative, independant, and open-minded, while being reminded of the important task at hand. At first, I found myself thinking a little too straight-forward, and when I’d try to be creative or think “out of the box”, I’d easily lose sight of our missions statement. However, as time went on and my group made more and more progress towards our final documentary, I began to be able to think creatively while keeping clear intentions in mind the whole time – my thinking was informed, but it was also integrative and flexible. I’m so thankful for the way What’s the Story has pushed me te become a more informed and integrative thinker – it has caused me to take more informed, creative action.

Clear and Effective Communication

One thing that was extremely important throughout my whole process at What’s the Story was clear and effective communication. Since we were working in groups, on a project with a topic that meant a lot to all of us is varied, important ways, it was vital that we were able to communicate our thoughts and views to each other. I definitely think I improved upon this skill over the months my group and I spent working on our project. As we bonded and grew as a group and a What’s the Story community as whole, I found myself getting much more comfortable and found it much easier to clearly and effectively communicate my thoughts – not only at What’s the Story, but in general too (at home, school, etc.). I also found myself getting better at listening to others, and taking their feedback and opinions into account in addition to mine – I feel that I have become more open-minded because of What’s the Story as well. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively is a skill that is so valuable and important for everyone to have, and I am so glad that, because of my experiences at What’s the Story, I will be better at it for the rest of my life.

I learned and improved as a person so much because of What’s the Story. Not only did I improve in the skillsets we documented along the way (informed and integrative thinking, responsible and involved citizenship, etc.), I also learned and grew in ways that weren’t intentional or planned.

One thing I learned about myself at What’s the Story that wasn’t necessarily part of the intended curriculum is that I actually love editing. I’d never really realized this before because I hadn’t ever had much experience with editing with a purpose. The reason the editing for my group’s documentary was so different from any editing I’d done before, is because we edited with clear intentions – a clear audience, story, and messages that we wanted to get across. This made the whole project so much more powerful, and because of it, I learned that I really enjoy editing videos.

The second thing that I learned at What’s the Story that wasn’t intentional is that if a group of people, no matter the size, come together with a powerful intention, they can make change. What I mean by this is that the What’s the Story community is filled with people who are all passionate about making change, and because of that, we were able to make an impact. Even though there wasn’t a huge number of us, and even though we were all “just kids”, because of the power behind our intentions and the sense of community that was built, we were able to create strong, inspiring documentaries that I know will have a lasting impact in our community. This learning will certainly carry me through the rest of my life as I go through new experiences, and meet new people. Because of What’s the Story, I now know that individuals truly can have a powerful, lasting impact if we come together and work as a team.

The final thing that I unexpectedly got out of What’s the Story is the knowledge that if I truly set my mind to something, I really can do it. This may sound obvious or cheesy, but in all honesty What’s the Story helped me to realize that hard work, commitment, and passion truly can lead to success. I now know that anything is accomplishable with collaboration, hard work, and an open mind set. For example, I’m very proud of how my group’s documentary turned out. But part way through the process of creating our video, I was slightly unsure of our idea, and whether out not it would be strong enough to make a lasting impact. However, as my group and I continued to work hard and apply ourselves to the project, it ended up turning out much more impactful than I had expected. It was heart-wrenching in some places, and bitter-sweet in others. It made people feel something real; something unfiltered and emotional. Because of this experience, I know that if I set my mind to something I want to do, I’ll be able to accomplish it.

These three unexpected self-discoveries that What’s the Story helped me to realize have definitely improved my skills as both a learner and an individual. Overall, What’s the Story has been an absolutely incredible experience, and I will carry the teachings it brought with me for the rest of my life.

Rae Kanarick

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