Our Story Provides a Safe Space for Students to Share


Our Story sought to foster hope and give students in the Fordham community a safe space to share their stories. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Stories filled Bepler Commons on Nov. 17, crafted by the impassioned speakers and their mentors, who together make up the club of Our Story. The evening marked the culmination of a semester-long process, where the members of Our Story sought candidates for their speakers, and then worked with those selected to transform their experiences into stories that would enrapture their audiences. 

As Magdalena Yank, FCRH ’25, the president of Our Story, explained, “Our Story is so important because it is one of the few spaces on campus where students can comfortably share an extremely personal story with a very understanding, non-judgmental audience. There are few times where we get to listen deeply and connect with others, and Our Story gives all students in the Fordham community an opportunity to do just this.”

The actual event conveyed just this, as the lack of flashy music or offensively bright graphics created an intimate atmosphere. The event was quiet, understated. The speakers and their mentors sat in two rows off to the side of the “stage,” watching as whomever had the floor told their tale. Friends, roommates and even a few parents filled the audience, quietly cheering on whomever they had ventured all the way to Faber Hall for. “Stage” is in quotes, as rather than a raised platform, the stage consisted of a cleared space of floor, a microphone and a screen onto which a presentation was displayed. Even the voices of the Our Story members, and the speakers were lower, quieter. The intimate, quieter atmosphere demanded that its audience close their mouths and listen. Lean in. Strangely enough, they did. It’s a feat that the Our Story team should be proud of. 

And, it’s a feat that was accomplished only through great effort. The process of creating the Our Story event took months. The first half of the process consisted of finding their speakers, which requires both a nomination and application. “The reasoning behind this process is that we try to find people who have a story to share and are eager to tell it,” said Yank. “Our goal is to get a diverse group of speakers, but also speakers who are truly interested in the entire process and who do not have another platform to share their story.” 

Once the candidates were selected, the second half of the process began. Yank explained, “Mentors and storytellers meet one-on-one about 3 to 5 times over the span of a month for as much time as they need (typically around an hour or less per meeting) in order to develop their stories.”

All of this work comes to a head at the end of the semester, when Our Story hosts their main event and invites the student body to hear their speakers’ stories.

The story that each speaker told ranged widely from one another, but each revolved around this semester’s theme, “Rose-Colored Glasses: Stories of Revelation.” As these stories were personal for each speaker, I will only mention them briefly. Julia Leahy, FCRH ’23, discussed her rise to TikTok stardom — and shamelessly plugged her account, @morepestoplease, as, after all, it does pay her rent — and discussed her struggle with an eating disorder. It’s a disease that many young people, especially young women, know too well. Emilio Grillo, FCRH ’25, discussed his struggle overcoming rejection from an Ivy school, and how he found peace in the community he discovered at Fordham. Leah Glaser, FCRH ’25, explained the difficulties she faced as a child with cerebral palsy that loved sports, and her triumph as she won a gold medal for the United States as a member of the U.S. Women’s paralympic soccer team. Hadley Silvas, FCRH ’25, recollected on how she clung to music during hard times of her life, especially when her father passed. Noran Shabana, FCLC ’23, ended the event, explaining the trauma of moving from NYC to Cairo and back again, as well as her struggle with mental health. Each of these speakers stepped onto the stage to do one of the bravest acts any of us could ask of another: share their experiences with absolute strangers. 

To Yank, this is one of the most magical aspects of Our Story. 

“Being able to put together and experience the main event each semester is very special to me. It is an incredible experience to see how all of the stories come together from the beginning, when we choose the storytellers, to the end, when the stories are shared at our main event. I love being able to create a community within Fordham of people who appreciate and express a strong sense of vulnerability,” said Yank. 

Although I had never met any of these individual speakers before, I felt as if I had gained some insight into a very specific moment in their lives. Their vulnerability, to parrot Yank, made me reflect on my own. If I had taken that stage, what would I have spoken about? Would I have had the courage to discuss my more vulnerable moments in front of people? 

When the event ended, Yank invited audience members to write down onto Post-it notes a word that described how they felt after listening to the speaker’s stories. Passing the packs of yellow and pink Post-its down through the lines (and scrambling in their bags for the pens they swore were in there), they scrambled a short word or two onto the small piece of paper and stuck it to a wall at the back of the room. Sentiments of gratitude, hope, pride and awe for the speakers, as well as the mentors who had worked alongside them, decorated the wall in hues of pink and yellow.