Nationally recognized Dear World, a portrait and storytelling organization, came to Rowan. Featured on USA Today, NBC, CNN, and Buzzfeed, Dear World focuses on uniqueness and individualization.
The event was split into two different parts. The first was an informational session that provoked students to think about the story they’d like to tell. Each participant was given a small notebook that had different writing prompts throughout. The host, Ak Ikwuakor, guided us through the process of finding our story by asking us to write down words we use to describe ourselves, things we are passionate about, mottos we live by, etc. He then challenged us to choose only one word and elaborate on it, telling the story behind the word we selected.
Some stories were happy, others were sad. Some were about lessons learned from mistakes made. But regardless of the nature of each of our stories, they all meant something to each one of us, tying into a specific memory that was called upon for the activity.
Once everyone was done writing their story, they were asked to switch seats and sit next to someone they didn’t know. Ak challenged students to get outside their comfort zone, promoting a sense of interpersonal development throughout the event.
At the conclusion of the first session, we transitioned into the portrait portion of the program. Using Expo marker, each of us wrote our meaningful quote derived from our story on our skin. It was a sight to see — complete strangers coming together to help each other figure out where they should write their quote and how to pose for their portrait.
After it was determined that I had good handwriting, I was recruited by my peers to write on their arms. With each student that I helped, I asked them about their quote and listened to the story that it came from. I learned so much about individuals that I had never met before because of Dear World and the opportunity that Rowan provided me to get involved with the event.
Later that night, the event continued with a large presentation of all the portraits that were taken. Over 100 students, faculty, and staff participated in the event. Some students were even given the opportunity to publicly tell their story to the audience that filled the Student Center pit.
Dear World gave Rowan students the opportunity to get involved on campus and network with other students, faculty, and staff while encouraging an attitude of acceptance. At Rowan, we make an effort to understand and appreciate others every chance we get.
The program was a collaborative effort between 10 different offices and organizations on campus that focus on student development, leadership opportunities, and inclusion. The Academic Success Center, ASCEND, Athletics, Orientation and Student Leadership Programs, Residence Hall Association, Residential Learning and University Housing, Student Center and Campus Activities, Social Justice, Inclusion, and Conflict Resolution, Wellness Center, and the President’s Office came together to host Dear World and give students the opportunity to tell their own story.
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