CHEK Upside: Victoria-based charity wins BC award for supporting students and teachers during pandemic

CHEK Upside: Victoria-based charity wins BC award for supporting students and teachers during pandemic
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Once upon a time, there was a Victoria-based charity with a simple mission.

“We inspire and we empower and we educate through the power of storytelling and particularly by getting youth to tell their own stories,” said Sean Rodman, Story Studio executive director.

For the past decade, Story Studio has worked with nearly 10,000 children from across greater Victoria, providing in-class writing workshops with the help of local authors and illustrators.

Their goal is to help turn students into storytellers.

In early 2020, they had 75 workshops planned for March. Then, COVID came, schools shut down and learning had a new look.

“We adapted right away by pivoting all online resources,” said Rebecca Ruiter, an instructor with Story Studio.

Ruiter started hosting virtual workshops via Zoom and Story Studio allowed online access to all of its writing resources free of charge. That’s when the local charity went global.

“So all of a sudden we’ve gone from being able to only kind of work with greater Victoria, to working with kids who are in the United States, Ontario, Alberta,” said Rodman. “These online programs suddenly have given us wings to go in a lot of different directions.”

While they’ve helped students from various parts of North America, their greatest impact remains with students on Vancouver Island.

“It really helped me having a program that I could actually go to and do every week,” said Maisha Klette, a 14-year-old home-schooled student who wrote her first book through Story Studio at just six years old.

Klette says the early days of the pandemic left her with few school-based resources, therefore Story Studio became her literary lifeline.

“I’ve actually made a lot of friends through it, like really close friends, and that’s not something I was expecting but I am so so grateful for it.”

The charity recently won a BC Principals and Vice Principals Association award for their service in helping engage students in a time when traditional learning was challenged like never before. In the past year alone, Story Studio has helped nearly 1,000 students publish their own books.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Ruiter. “Just seeing the students put their own words together and be really creative with their ideas and then get this beautiful product in the end that they’re proud of and happy to share with their friends and family.”

“When you see them actually come up with a story and do the hard work and learn how to tell a good story, that’s amazing, so rewarding,” said Rodman.

Story Studio is now back to some in-class workshops and this charity’s story is far from over. For information on Story Studio summer programs, click here.

Kevin CharachKevin Charach

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