Mission & Core Beliefs
Story Works supports youth voices through storytelling and writing workshops that develop skills, build resilience, and increase access to opportunity. We believe in the importance of listening, the protective value of connection, and the power of stories to foster wellness for individuals and communities.
What We Do
We currently offer in-person programs for high school students in both Anchorage and Unalakleet, Alaska. We also share our resources for supporting those programs with interested educators and students in other communities.
Our Story Workshops bring volunteer story coaches (professionals from the community and project alums from within the school) into high school English classrooms to encourage and support student storytellers. The stories that emerge offer opportunities for learning and connection between peers and community members.
Our College Essay Workshops offer free, out-of-school support to students developing college admissions essays. Participating students attend workshops on essay development and are matched with volunteers (journalists, writers, editors, former English teachers etc.) who offer support and encouragement during this challenging and high stakes process.
The Story Works Alaska Youth Team (SAYiT) is a group of Story Works participants who meet outside of school time to plan and conduct projects to support youth stories. First launched in January 2015, SAYiT has since:
- hosted two Anchorage-wide events featuring storytellers from multiple high schools,
- led story workshops for elementary-aged students,
- produced a three-part podcast featuring stories about bullying and bullying prevention,
- led a workshop at a national education conference, Deeper Learning 2018, and taught teachers from around the US how to support student voices at their schools.
- They are currently developing a series of videos to support Story Works participants in classrooms beyond Anchorage.
Why We Do It
We were founded to capture some of the growing energy around storytelling in our community and share it with the students in our schools. And we continue to grow in response to the power of the students and their stories.
Our workshops offer students and teachers a chance to receive additional support from trained volunteers while engaging in the timeless art of constructing meaning through stories–their stories. They also offer schools and communities a way to value, support, and listen to student voices.
Where We Are
Currently, we host our Story Workshops in high schools in both Anchorage and Unalakleet, Alaska. However, our Story and College Essay lessons and materials have been used by educators as far away as New York and Texas.
The Story Works Alaska Youth Team (SAYiT), also meets outside of school time to plan events, produce podcasts, and manage other projects. These meetings are held at our office in the Youth Hub space we share with Spirit of Youth, the Alaska Teen Media Institute (ATMI), and Youth Vote. If you are a high school student interested in joining SAYiT, please message us on Instagram (@storyworksak) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: For a short intro to ATMI and what goes on there, we highly recommend this video.
Who We Are
Story Works Alaska is sustained by the efforts of dedicated teachers, students, and the volunteers who work with them. Among others, our volunteers include journalists, scientists, non-profit professionals, medical professionals, retired teachers, lawyers, writers, members of the military, professional storytellers, and two mathematicians. To learn more about some of the individuals involved, please read on.
Since Story Works began (way back in February 2014), over 1,500 high school students (and a handful of middle school students) have participated in our workshops. These students include Anchorage-area students from Polaris, West, East, Service, Bartlett, Steller, and Dimond High Schools along with the entire high school (40 students) in the community of Unalakleet, Alaska.
Although participants have the choice to opt out (and write an essay or share to a small group), more than 99% choose to share their stories aloud –with volunteers, teachers, and each other. Stories have been shared in classrooms, in hallways, in stairwells, and on school stages. And even beyond school walls, at Arctic Entries events –in front of audiences of up to 1,500 people– and at other community-wide events.
Story Works student storytellers from Anchorage’s West and Dimond High Schools have also been featured on the Alaska Teen Media Institute’s youth radio show, In Other News.
Want to hear some of their stories? Listen here.
Vik Patel (Co-founder and Lecturer) got his early start in story coaching by picking apart his parents’ attempts to punish him. “If you take away my television privileges, you become the bad guy. Inspire me, Mom; don’t make me root against you.” Happily, Vik grew to be less obnoxious as an adult, but still enjoys working with storytellers. A longtime producer and story coach for Anchorage storytelling program Arctic Entries, Vik wrote the first draft of the Story Works curriculum and sheds a tear each and every time we shorten the Storytelling Basics lesson.
Regan Brooks (Co-founder and Acting Executive Director) is a former New Yorker who is grateful to have landed in Anchorage, the community that made Story Works possible. She has worked as a high school science teacher, a bird-nest-finder, a fry cook, and a costume character. She currently splits her time between volunteering with Story Works and chasing her two kids around.
Rachel Kittoe (Co-founder and Partner Teacher) has been teaching English at West High School since 2009. Rachel enjoys bringing Story Works to her students because it enhances the classroom community and builds morale. She also loves how it helps students learn how to think about structure and editing. “The process of crafting a story to tell verbally is very similar to the writing process and, as we work, I can see students learn how to transfer these skills.”
Temperance Tinker (Co-founder and Partner Teacher) spends her days at West High School conserving habitat for the endangered species of the teenage mind. Temperance first hosted Story Works (then The West High Storytelling Project) in her classroom in February 2014. She is excited to be involved in bringing storytelling into the high school English Language Arts classroom.
Britta Hamre (Story Coach and Secretary, Board of Directors) In 2008 Britta‘s family moved to Anchorage, Alaska and it has been the best thing that has ever happened to her. She graduated with a BA of Sociology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2016 and has worked as a baker, refugee case manager, and food advocate. Britta enjoys running, skiing, meeting new dogs, good food, good books, and good company. She has been a Story Works Alaska volunteer for over a year and believes community happens when we take the time to listen.
Katie Reilly (Story Coach and Treasurer, Board of Directors) is the former Adolescent Health Project Coordinator at the State of Alaska, DHSS, Division of Public Health and a frequent volunteer story coach. A returned Peace Corps volunteer, Katie holds a Masters in Public Health, and now works with local consulting firm Agnew::Beck. Katie loves walking her dog, Bark Lee and singing with her band, Sassafrass.
Löki Gale Tobin (Board of Directors) was born in Nome, Alaska and attended the University of Alaska Anchorage, graduating with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Sociology. She is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Azerbaijan) and earned her Master of Arts degree through the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her thesis, a comparative analysis of indigenous cultural transmission in Alaska, Azerbaijan, and Canada, is 139 pages. Löki Gale enjoys Star Trek The Next Generation, volunteerism, local food movements, American Sign Language, Mixed Martial Arts, hiking, rock climbing, and cooking.
Darla Graham (Story Coach and Board of Directors) was born in Homer, Alaska and works as CIRI’s Shareholder Programs Manager. Darla holds a Bachelors in Business Administration and a graduate certificate from the Alaska Native Executive Leadership Program at Alaska Pacific University. She loves helping youth reach their full potential and is passionate about instilling hope in our next generation. Her work largely focuses on human resources, youth programs and community engagement. In her free time she loves spending time with her family and friends, especially her spunky daughter Kaydence, attending yoga and cycle classes, and traveling whenever she can! She believes telling stories is healing, therapeutic and inspiring – for both the storytellers and the listeners!
Kirsten Anderson (Board of Directors) was born in Portland, Oregon and has lived in Anchorage and other northern countries for over 15 years. She is Deputy Director of Collections, Special Exhibitions and Projects at the Anchorage Museum, collaborating on curation of exhibitions, programs and initiatives, and also served served on the executive team for the Museum’s 2017 expansion. Before joining the museum, her work focused on cultural resource planning and research, with work in archaeology, tribal and community coordination and cultural resource preservation at private, state and federal organizations in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Norway and Scotland. She has edited and contributed to exhibition catalogues and publications, and has published poetry, non-fiction, and scholarly articles on culture, history and art. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from University of Alaska Anchorage, an M.Phil. in Archaeology from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and a BA in English and Art History from Willamette University in Oregon. She loves how northerners come together to tell stories during the darkest and coldest times of the year.
Laureli Ivanoff (Board of Directors) lives in and loves her hometown of Unalakleet, at the heart of the Norton Sound. She works as a Communications Director for a non-profit fisheries organization and is a freelance writer. She’s passionate about sharing stories that accurately reflect lifestyles in rural Alaska. Her favorite things include cutting fish, making seal oil, and boating the waters around Unalakleet with family.
Nelson Carpluk (Board of Directors) is originally from Mountain Village in Southwest Alaska, but grew up mostly in Fairbanks. Nelson attended UAF for his Undergraduate and Graduate Degrees in Business Finance. He currently works at Alyeska Pipeline in the Oil Movements Department. Nelson loves the outdoors and enjoys hiking, biking, running, skiing and traveling. He is very excited to begin to help more with Story Works, and really enjoys seeing the power of stories change lives and bring communities together.
Regan Brooks (Co-founder) is the same Regan listed above. She currently serves as volunteer Acting Executive Director and board president.
Staff and Partners
Lila Hobbs (Creator of Opportunities) earned her BA in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Global Health from Johns Hopkins University. Most recently, Lila worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle where she helped streamline the foundation’s communication processes. Before that, Lila worked at Agnew::Beck, a multidisciplinary consulting firm in Anchorage. Lila’s love for learning about people and listening to their stories has led her around the world. She believes storytelling is a powerful catalyst for community building. Outside of work, Lila is a climbing podcast aficionado, self-proclaimed giant panda scholar, and budding mountaineer.
Cari Zawodny (Student Advisory Team Facilitator) is the facilitator of Anchorage Youth Vote, the Spirit of Youth Teen Advisory Council, and the Story Works Alaska Student Advisory Team. A long-time Alaskan, Cari earned her BA in Filmmaking from Montana State University, and is the former Director of Anchorage’s Promise. Cari is raising two amazing kids and loves dance, writing, and making things with her hands. If she could have any super power it would be the ability to locate keys with nothing but the power of her mind.
Amanda Dale (College Essay Workshop Facilitator) is an education program coordinator at the Alaska Humanities Forum. She has worked as a tutor and instructor for teens writing essays and personal statements in public schools, private institutes and as a freelancer in the U.S., Japan, Chile, Spain, and Denmark. She has worked as a proofreader and editor for university students since 2014 and has a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication from Linfield College (2003) and a master’s degree in Lifelong Learning from Aarhus University (2014).
Rosey Robards (Story Coach and Workshop Facilitator) is the director at Alaska Teen Media Institute. She is also a member of the storyboard for the Arctic Entries storytelling event and host of the Arctic Entries Radio Hour. She graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a degree in Journalism and Public Communications (May 2005). Storytelling has always been one of her favorite things to do, and she finds it really rewarding to help others improve their stories as well. Bring on the stories!
Amazing Volunteers (just a few of the many)
Jason Slemons (Volunteer) was born and raised in Alaska. His life story, of which he strives to be the hero, includes a deep and abiding love of his family, mathematics, snow, skiing, and soccer. In a continual effort to give back even a small fraction of what he has gotten out of the last 35 years of life, he volunteers for Story Works. It turns out that listening to others tell their stories is as satisfying as making sense of his own.
Marc Spooner (Volunteer) is an attorney, programmer, and literature freak who loves This-American-Life-style oral prose and hanging out with people who have interesting things to talk about. He is excited that he’s been able to help Story Works kids grind their storytelling chops, and he’s glad that this marathon coding session (the result of which is the AKSW version 2.0 you see before you) is going to streamline the volunteer application and signup debacle, if only a little bit. And pretties all around.
Other Lovely Humans Who Have Helped Story Works (but now live far away)
Robert Stormo (Story Coach and Workshop Facilitator) is the former assistant director of the Alaska Teen Media Institute (ATMI) and graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage in 2007 with a degree in Journalism and Public Communications. After graduation, he transitioned from college radio to a broadcasting company in Anchorage. While at ATMI, he enjoyed working with youth to get their stories on air by facilitating the production of the youth-produced radio show “In Other News” on KNBA 90.3 FM.
Tara Young (Story Coach) Over the past fifteen years, Tara Young has produced and edited arts and culture programming for a wealth of companies including Sundance Channel, The Criterion Collection, Vice Media, and Etsy. She is currently a video journalist at Alaska Dispatch News. Young’s interest in storytelling and documentary has led her to notable and quirky places and people around the world –a woodworker in rural Missouri, a Mexican family band in the Rio Grande Valley, and an abandoned textile mill town in Lancashire, UK. Her stories seek to get to the heart – of the story, the character, and what it means to be human.
Plus… another 100+ volunteers and 10+ teachers –all of whom have contributed countless hours towards supporting students and their stories.
You can keep in touch with the Story Works Alaska team in a number of ways…
or using this handy contact form.
Partner Organizations and Supporters
Story Works Alaska collaborates closely with the wonderful team at the Alaska Teen Media Institute and owes a deep debt to Arctic Entries and their dedicated Story Board. Other wonderful collaborators include the Anchorage Museum, Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services, and Leadership Anchorage.
Further support and inspiration is provided by the Alaska Humanities Forum, the Atwood Foundation, the National Storytelling Network, the National Writing Project/ Educator Innovator, the Rasmuson Foundation, the Alaska Community Foundation, Anchorage Youth Development Coalition, and Spirit of Youth, and as well as volunteers, partner teachers, and the many students who have shared stories and feedback with us.
If you are interested in becoming a supporter too, please click here to donate any amount you choose! All donations will help support youth in Story or College Essay Workshops.