A Discussion Group of the National Storytelling Network

Story Circles
Children at the Well

Students Sharing Their Stories, Albany, NY Jan. 31, 2006

$5,000 grant will fund program involving youths from four area schools

By Anne Miller, Staff writer
First published: Times Union, Albany, NY, Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SCHENECTADY -- Children from four religions will learn to share stories this spring thanks to a $5,000 national grant and a local storytelling group.

Students ranging from sixth to ninth graders were selected to participate in the Children at the Well program. They represent the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons school, a Catholic high school; the An-Nur Islamic school; the Hindu Temple Society of the Capital District; and the Community Coalition for Jewish Education.

Starting Sunday, the students will learn storytelling techniques. They will polish their tales for a public performance beginning at 1:30 p.m. April 30 and dinner at Shenendehowa United Methodist Church in Clifton Park.

The grant money is awarded annually by the National Storytelling Network, which is based in Tennessee and offers several awards in addition to sponsoring conferences.

The cash will pay for two story coaches, Marni Gillard and Mary Murphy, to work with the kids, said Gert Johnson, the interfaith story circle organizer.

She hatched the idea for the project, which she calls "Children at the Well," to give kids a chance to experience the cultural understanding and traditional storytelling techniques the adults have enjoyed. The grant money is enough to start the program, but Johnson said she hopes to solicit local donations to see the project through future years.

One of the participants is Adah Hetko, a 14-year-old Shaker High School freshman from Latham.

"I hope to learn about the other faiths, to be connected with the other kids," Hetko said. She has been involved in storytelling for the past three years, she said. She used to tell the tale of a king who wanted something to help him through his reign, and eventually he found a ring with the inscription, "This too shall pass."

"A week ago, I heard this story told as a folktale from Iran," she said. "I was shocked."

Her mother, Paula Weiss, said she has already seen her daughter benefit from telling stories.

"She's one of those funny kids who is shy when you meet her, but loves to be on stage," Weiss said. After a few years of storytelling, she said her daughter is more at ease speaking with people. And Weiss said Adah has already starting making friends with two other girls in the interfaith program, one Muslim, the other Christian.

"They're cut from the same cloth," Weiss said.