A story inside you

Morgan Ewald

On Wednesday, April 10, Rachel Spenn held an event for her James Millikin Scholar (JMS) research project. Held in LRTUC from 7 to 9 p.m., her project was based on the organization Story Corps.

In the beginning, Spenn informed the audience about Story Corps, and what their purpose is as an organization.

“Story Corps is essentially a nonprofit oral history project that has spread nationwide,” she said. “It gives every American the chance to share, record and archive his or her story purely for sake of recognizing that person’s life experiences as something valuable and worth being considered and saved.”

Spenn began “looking for trends in the stories” that she listened to. She began to search for a common theme within the stories – something people always talk about.

“After listening to what seemed like thousands of stories for months and months, I never found one true common theme that I felt really worked for everything I had heard.”

It wasn’t until after Spenn had heard many of the stories that she noticed what the similarity was between the stories from Story Corps.

“I finally figured out that the only thing these stories had in common was the environment in which they were told. Obviously, a Story Corps facility, but more than that, it was in what the sharer considered a safe environment with someone they loved or trusted. That was the theme. It wasn’t the content, it was the company.”

Spenn wanted to do a JMS project that was a bit different than what she ended up doing. “I wanted to interview people and study those reactions and responses. That didn’t work out, so, with my advisor’s help, I decided to focus my energy on Story Corps. I just dug deeper until I found something I could latch onto – something I felt was valuable.”

She heard about Story Corps from her honors advisor, Dr. Cheryl Chamblin and it was first suggested as a supplement resource, but it “took off from there.”

In order to prepare for the actual Millikin Story Corps event, Spenn spent a lot of time listening to stories, and speaking with people that could help organize the event.

“Lots of time was dedicated to listening to Story Corps. In terms of putting on the actual event, I had to reserve space, media and specific set-up items. I am very fortunate in that my parents, friends and Alpha Chi Omega sisters were extremely supportive and there to help and volunteer with anything I needed.”

In the end, the event was a success with a great turnout. Spenn gave a presentation on Story Corps, and then gave Millikin students the opportunity to participate by sharing their own story. A photo shoot was also offered in order to lighten the mood because some of the stories were very emotional. Cookies were also provided.

Story Corps holds quite a bit of meaning for Spenn now that she has studied it.

“Story Corps definitely holds a special place in my heart. More than anything, I think it’s taught me that every person is more valuable than we give them credit for and that sometimes the truest way to serve someone is to just listen without interrupting or judging – just be receptive of that person’s thoughts and feelings.”

Although Spenn has not shared her own story yet, she would really like to go to an actual Story Corps location someday.

“That’s definitely on my bucket list. Story Corps stresses the value and dignity of every human life, no matter how small the experience may seem.”