March Retreat; What This Process Has Given Me

I first learned about What’s the Story through several friends that had been participating in the program last year. At first, the program didn’t catch my attention as an opportunity I should take advantage of, it didn’t stand out as something very “me.” Later on, one of my friends convinced me to attend the end of year presentation at the Breadloaf Inn. There I was given a better window into the experiences of a WtS learner and the motivation that drove the program yet, I still wasn’t convinced that it was right for me. It took several more months of the idea sitting dormant in the back of my mind for the thought to click. I woke up in August to the startling realization that this was a program I needed to participate in. I needed to try something different, I needed to explore skills that I had since left underdeveloped, and I needed to apply the process of learning to something that felt more “real”. Looking back now as the year is rapidly coming to a close I can say that Joining WtS was the most obvious and logical next step to enhance my learning experience.

WtS is different from an average course in that the work is student driven. We act as our own generators of motivation and progress and apply our work in a way that facilitates change in an area that matters to us.  In the fall when students were pitching their ideas I made the decision to dedicate the rest of the year to a topic that I knew very little about before: equity in education for ELL students. Over the past few months, I have been taken on a journey of research, investigation, interviewing, and evaluation.  This journey has taken place alongside four other students that I had little or no connection with before this course, yet who have all bonded over our shared enthusiasm for our project.

On the kickoff day, we were asked to explain why we are here. This was my response:

“I am here because I want to direct my learning on a unique path. I see this course as an opportunity to take my skills to a new level and improve my ability to create finished products. I am coming to this class with my experience of translating ideas into visual expressions. I hope to refine my communication skills and explore new media.  One of the main factors that attracted me to this class was my lack of knowledge when it comes to film and video editing. Gaining an understanding of these tools will be applicable to the world beyond school and very relevant to my future.

I don’t often get the chance to do something real during the process of learning. My previous work and assignments have usually just been practice for later on, it’s always a draft or a simulation but never the real thing. Normal education in the classroom hasn’t been designed for students to walk away with a tangible, polished representation of their growth and learning. Not only will I gain mature real-world experience, but I will have the power to help people and make a difference. I’m looking forward to exploring my community with new depth and discovering my potential among a new group of peers.”

All my expectations for the course have since been met and exceeded. This course has impacted me greatly. Throughout my involvement, there have always been challenges and excitement. Filming interviews and hearing different stories is an incredibly fulfilling and satisfying process. Working with others to problem solve and create powerful content has helped me develop collaboration skills and give me an empowering sense of what I can achieve. I have grown so emotionally invested in this project that it doesn’t feel like “work.” This program has brought me close to an issue which until recently I didn’t even know existed, but now I feel truly dedicated and passionate about facilitating a positive change with this year’s work.
There are many reasons that WtS could be the next big step in one’s education. Whether it’s because a student is looking for a new outlet to express themselves, feel constricted or confined in a traditional classroom or is passionate about an issue and wants to become a  game changer this program helps you find resources and solutions.

Kati Tolgyesi

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