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, nonprofit 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 2,000 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 students in grades 8-12 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.
Vik is the creator of Alaska Public Media’s New Arrivals series, and currently works in podcasting for Sony Music in Los Angeles, where the most interesting thing about him is that he used to live in Alaska. Vik once again lives with his Mom, who still limits his television time.
Regan Brooks (Co-founder and Acting Executive Director) was born and raised in New York City and has called Anchorage, Alaska home for eleven years. She first developed her love of storytelling in high school* but took a detour into the sciences for a while because birds, plants and physics are awesome too. A former science teacher, ornithology research assistant, fry-cook, and costume character, Regan holds a BS in Government from Cornell University and an MS in Botany from the University of Vermont. She loves being a mom to her two kids, taking them hiking even when they don’t want to go, and hearing them tell stories about it later. She believes storytelling helps us make sense of what matters most and she’s grateful to all who have collaborated, through storytelling and listening, to make Story Works possible.
*Thank you, Mrs. Frosch and Mme. Krauthammer!
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) moved to Anchorage in 2008 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.
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 the volunteer Acting Executive Director and board president.
Issa Spatrisano (Board of Directors and Education Partner) was born in Michigan but has called Alaska home for 8 years. She holds a BA in History and Political Science from Western Michigan University and a M.Ed. in Teaching and Learning from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She is the Program Director/State Refugee Coordinator of Catholic Social Services Refugee Assistance & Immigration Services. Through refugee resettlement and classroom experience as an English as a Second Language teacher, she has served individuals from over 65 countries. Issa believes that Alaska is the best place to be a lover of storytelling because you can travel the globe without ever leaving your community.
Nithya Thiru (Board of Directors and Story Coach) was born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. While in high school, she developed a love of storytelling as an Alaska Teen Media Institute producer in high school. She later went on to work as the News, Sports and Public Affairs Director for KRUA 88.1 FM at the University of Alaska Anchorage where she graduated with a BA in History. She recently completed her Master of Public Administration in Human Rights and Gender Policy at Columbia University. Now, after two years away from her home state, she is thrilled to be back in Alaska to serve her community as an advocate and educator. Nithya enjoys hiking, reading tarot and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Growing up among immigrant communities in Anchorage, she has witnessed the power of storytelling to bring folks together and create spaces for both healing and joy.
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.
Chuck Herman (College Essay Workshop Facilitator) grew up in Bethel and his childhood meals often concluded with the adults drinking decaf coffee and telling stories for hours. He is a proud graduate of Ayaprun Elitnaurvik (Yup’ik Immersion) and Bethel Regional High School (BRHS). After graduating from college in LA, he returned to BRHS as a College and Career Guide and worked with 7th-12th grade students on thinking about what they want to do with their lives. After moving and spending a few years in Boston, he is overjoyed to be back in Alaska and embracing living on the road system for the first time. He loves hearing and coaching people’s stories and is lucky to have coached people from all over the world. Chuck has a BA in Sociology and Public Policy from Pomona College and a Master’s in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School.
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!
Plus this project would not be possible without 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.