I’ve done a whole lot of things in my 21 years of life, from learning different sports and different instruments, to trying new classes and new hobbies.
But I think somewhere within the last year of my life, I got involved in something that is changing the course of where I want to go and who I want to be. It’s undeniable just how much.
We call it The Awareness Gallery.
You see, a lot of the things I have done or tried are things I’ve planned to do or wanted to try. I’m not a huge fan of surprises; that, and I like to be in control change. Ironic, I know. But like a lot of people, I don’t like walking into things without knowing what’s going to happen next.
In my junior year of college, I decided to spend the year doing it anyway.
Getting involved with Cal Poly Orientation is something that I threw myself into without letting myself back out, for a few reasons. The biggest one: because I knew it would change me.
And it has. Immensely.
This last year has introduced me to just a few things that I think I will love for the rest of my life. One of them is influencing and interacting with people, people who have an insurmountable amount of potential and want to see if they can reach it with my help.
The other thing is speaking up, in whatever way I can.
I’ve said this in the past and you should know it by now—I adore the art of storytelling. The way it draws us in, introduces us to lives and people and places that we do not know in our own realities… Sometimes I wonder if there is just a little bit of magic in that.
This time, I wanted to be a part of that magic and I have been chasing it for almost a decade now, long enough to learn how to tell my own stories. Poetry, short stories, novels, these are all pieces of what I find beauty in, what I have learned to define as storytelling.
It took me until last year to fully understand just how many other ways someone can tell a story.
That Awareness Gallery I mentioned? It’s a special project in Cal Poly’s orientation program that students like me and the handful of others I am working with get to put together.
We take a look at mental health, sexual assault, relationships, diversity & inclusivity, and drugs & alcohol as areas of our lives that have a heavy impact on college students. As one of the students working on it, I have found, researched, and fact checked statistics we display in the room, along with finding new ways to introduce students to topics that will be surrounding them sooner than later.
Because students need to know, it needs to be something we can talk about. So why not start the moment they step onto our campus?
The gallery eases them into it.
We each have our own sections to focus on and a partner to work with up until now when we put the galleries together as a whole. Up until now, what we have created and improved upon for this year was all just an idea. They were imagined depictions and hopeful outcomes, things I’ve wanted to see happen but known may not be feasible. Nothing was concrete.
Not until this week. On Tuesday, we started putting the gallery together and let me tell you something: storytelling will never be limited to our words.
It is the things you say, the way you say it, they medium you introduce information with, how quickly you deliver it, what you add to it, and so much more. And this week, I have gotten to literally have my hands on chapters of the stories we have decided to tell. These are the stories students need to understand and hear and know that exist in their world.
They need to know that when they see themselves reflected back at them through the statistics and lives of others, they are not the only ones. And they never will be.
The work I am doing on this gallery with my talented and incredible friends is something priceless; we signed up for this on a volunteer basis because we care about it. Enough to put in hours of our time to adjust and brainstorm and research and measure out just how to put these galleries together in the best way possible.
As much as I like getting paid for the work I put into things, there is something to say for the work we do simply because we know that we care enough to do it and are passionate enough to do it well.
These galleries will be finished, walked through, understood, witnessed, and taken down all within the next month. Yet, the impact it has on Cal Poly’s next class of students will last much longer than that. And the experience I have gotten, the time I’ve spent around the people who care about these things and discovering what it can mean to tell the stories untold, it is intangible.
So I wanted to share it with you. Happy Friday, see you next week.