HerStory Writers Workshop has been active on Long island for more than two decades, and on campus for the past few years. This semester, I had the opportunity to work with the HerStory Writers Workshop, that encourages women to write share their stories. Helen Dorado Alessi is one of six workshop facilitators and consultants who runs the workshop. She brought together 13 students from Westbury High School and 11 graduate and undergraduate students from Post to write alongside each other, sharing their own stories as to who made them the women they are today.
Alessi helps writers during the session find their “first page moment,” which according to novelist, essayist and founder of HerStory Writers Workshop, Erika Duncan, is where the reader finds themselves able to “walk in the writer’s shoes.”This means unlike writing an academic essay or research paper, HerStory teaches the writer to put the readers in the heart of the action, where the most action of the story begins.
The students in the classroom had an array of stories, the high school students discussed issues from immigration struggles to abuse. This experience allowed for the high school students to hear some of the college students stories about adapting to college life and discovering who they were, and to the pressures of being a student athlete.
When selecting our stories to write, we first had to think of a moment in our lives that changed us. For a number of us in the room, thinking back to a time that changed us was hard, and often forced emotion to resurface. Topics raised included teen pregnancy, absent parents, poverty, addiction, and problems in both the healthcare and juvenile systems. These stories submitted through the HerStory organization are shared on Long Island Wins website and are written with the intention of getting published in one of HerStory’s books.
There is plenty to be learned in the environment HerStory provides, past the writing skills like the degree of trust that the students learn to develop for each other, partnered with the honesty of the stories is a skill rarely learned in the classroom.
Junior English and political science major Taylor Brodsky shared her experience. “Her-Story was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in a class at Post,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised by how well the program was put together and the impact that it had on me as a student,” Brodsky added. “The high school students involved enjoyed the experience as well and it was really amazing to see the impact we had on younger students”
The participating students this semester are English or sociology majors, and taking the class for internship credit to satisfy the Eng 101 or Soc 92 requirement. But not all students were taking the class for college credit. “This writing project will engage public high school students in writing alongside college students, writing their stories together, building bridges across age, situation, and culture,” Dr Glynis Pereyra, interdisciplinary studies director said.