Connecting at UConn – February 3, 2017

As co-founder Colum McCann writes, “At Narrative 4 we’ve always known that stories are a bridge.  Not just a bridge across divides, but a bridge beyond division.”  

For proof, consider the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, Connecticut, where administrators recently looked to Narrative 4 to create an arc towards students in distress. 

After the death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the director of counseling at the university Elizabeth Cracco sought therapeutic techniques to help students grappling with the immensity of the events.  That was when she heard about N4’s story exchange methods.

Cracco — who is tasked with the care of thousands of students — didn’t waste a moment contacting N4.

“We did an initial training with about 100 people,” says Cracco.  Soon N4 became a fixture on campus. Story exchanges were used not only by the Counseling Center, but also in the Higher Education and Student Affairs masters program and the university’s community outreach efforts. 

Bridges were being built. 

Last fall, Fany Dejesus Hanon, director of the university’s Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center spoke with Cracco about the distress she was seeing among young adults at the center, many of them DREAM students. Cracco suggested a day of story exchange training with N4’s Lee Keylock for staff and student leaders from all the university’s cultural centers. 

Soon, participants from the African American Cultural Center, the Rainbow Center the Women’s Center, the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center were signed on.

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If you build it, they will come.  

Cracco said that connecting the university centers, which lead peer counseling efforts among their members, had always been a goal. The story exchange training provided a reason to come together and a tool to foster further bonds in the days ahead. The story exchange “let them know they’re not alone.”   

More from Narrative 4:

Narrative 4 Gun Awareness Documentary Nominated for National Magazine Award

Narrative 4 Limerick Rings in the New Year with Readings

Young Journalists Exchange Stories with Locals in Costa Rica

Students in Mexico Open Up About Living with Violence