During the Spring 2013 term, Alyse Ruriani was the Student Organizer for The Storytellers campaign at Nazareth Academy High School. We were proud to see the effort Alyse and her school put into spreading awareness of mental health issues and raising more than $1,700 for TWLOHA. But even more moving was the way The Storytellers became an outlet and a resource for their community during a time of loss and pain. Alyse’s account of this reminds us of why we do what we do and why The Storytellers campaign exists. We wanted to share it with you here.
TWLOHA has been important to me for a long time, and I remember waiting for some official way for my all-girls, private Catholic high school to get involved with the organization. The answer came with the launch of The Storytellers high school campaign in 2012, and finally, this past spring, it seemed like the perfect time to bring it to my school. It was my senior year, I’m in recovery—and I knew I was ready.
I was nervous at first about trying to find a faculty advisor, but when I went to the Sister in charge of community service, she was just as excited as I was. My principal signed off, and we were officially accepted into The Storytellers 2013 Spring Term. It wasn’t long before I was staying after school for hours, planning events and meeting with people to get this campaign going. When the term began, I wasn’t sure how my school would react or if anyone would even support the cause, but I was pleasantly surprised by how The Storytellers campaign was received.
Then, sadly, a family in our community lost their son to suicide in January. There had also been several other suicides and tragedies in our area in the months before and during the campaign. This left us with so many questions; many felt confused and lost. But through The Storytellers, we found a chance to step in and provide hope and help during those hard times. When we held our first fundraiser, it was in memory of the boy lost in January. He went to another school in our area, so we also spread the word to his school and the surrounding community. The outcome was more than I could have asked for—not because of the amount of money raised for TWLOHA, but because of the emotional support it provided. People came together in a way that formed lasting connections that have proven helpful in the healing process.
Within my own school, we were also able to dig deep and restore hope among our classmates. The value of the openness and honesty inspired by this campaign cannot be measured. So many people came together and told their stories, and my faculty advisor and I were able to point students who needed resources in the right direction. The Storytellers allowed us to start a conversation about mental health issues and confront the stigma surrounding it. I saw so many friends learn they were not alone and they were loved.
On an individual level, The Storytellers helped me form deeper bonds and gave me a chance to share some of my journey with others. Not only did the campaign help me continue in my own recovery, but I was also able to make an impact on others’ lives.
Looking back, I feel The Storytellers campaign was the best thing that could have happened in my school, my community, and my life during some tough times. It presented hope to those who might have lost it and brought help to those who had been searching for it. It was a reminder of the important things we all need: support from others, the ability to reach out, and gratitude for how far we’ve come.