What’s Your Story?
My name is Cary DeYoung and I am a Newtown High School Senior here in Sandy Hook, CT. For the past year and a half I have had the pleasure to intern at the Avielle Foundation. During this time, we have studied the amazing world of neuroscience and the intersection between the brain’s biochemistry and behavior. We put a lot of effort into finding ways to engage and educate the everyday citizen in brain health and neuroscience awareness (check out our PSA – Making the Invisible Visible – as an example).
This Saturday, in my capacity as an intern, I had the opportunity to attend the Narrative 4 (N4) 2015 Summit at Yale University. Co-founder and director of the Avielle Foundation, Dr. Jeremy Richman keynoted this event through a presentation entitled “You Can Imagine…Empathy Into Action.” This was a remarkably exciting opportunity for me, because earlier this year Narrative 4 came to my 11th grade American Literature Class, for a story exchange within the students. Witnessing the founders and supporters of N4 unveil their plans for the organization for next 3 years was inspiring and I am honored to have been involved.
N4 is a non-profit organization that works on building empathy and breaking down barriers through the exchange of personal stories. The organization states that their vision is, “Fearless hope through radical empathy,” and they approach this vision in a simple and effective fashion. Here is how it works: Individuals are randomly paired off with each other and asked to share a story that in some way defines him or her; After this, each partner is asked to share their partner’s story, from the perspective of the partner in a group setting. The mutual feelings of vulnerability and the responsibility of having to share each other’s story left our class with a novel sense of interconnectedness. This is an incredibly eye opening and a valuable experience. It provided a clear vision into someone’s personal and defining story. Each partnership forges a sense of trust, depending on each other to do justice to their stories. One must listen carefully and compassionately during the exchange to gain a solid understanding so their partner’s story can be adequately told. Suddenly the class had a sense of understanding and empathy for each other after hearing each person’s personal story or struggle. Imagine the power of these connections being applied to very different groups – young and old, culturally divergent kids from an inner city with kids living in suburbs, the shared perspective within a broken family, competing business, or social class.
I jumped at the opportunity to see the talk we had been working on come to life when Jeremy asked me to join him at Yale. Being at the N4 2015 Summit was inspiring and gave me an understanding of the inner workings of what was done at my school. The organization has a strong desire to bring what was done in my classroom to other communities.
N4’s innovative goals keenly reflect our mission here at The Avielle Foundation, both building compassion and empowering communities by engaging people through the exchange of stories and experiences. As Jeremy summed up in his presentation, we believe, “The pinnacle of human evolution is to be humane…how you share knowledge really determines how human you are.” His keynote lecture, “You Can Imagine…Empathy Into Action,” introduced the correlative understanding of the human need to be connected with others and engaged in communities.
N4 has the potential and strength to build relationships and to heal relationships that have been broken and destroyed, by -”walking a mile someone else’s shoes.” The Avielle Foundation and N4 share the understanding that humans strive for the connections that the narratives create. I eagerly await the bright future of N4 after the two insightful experiences I have had with this great organization.
Additionally, I am thrilled to be a part of the Avielle Foundation. We have collaborated with visionary and influential organizations such as the Child Mind Institute, criminal justice programs, many amazing universities, physicians, therapists, and social workers, the Health and Human Services, Ben’s Lighthouse, the Ana Grace Project, Ben’s Bells, media outlets such as NPR, CNN, and now with Narrative 4. It is inspiring to be in the center of such positively charged changes, ideas, and organizations and I am thrilled and excited for the future of working with the Avielle Foundation and the bright organizations we collaborate with.