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Brett Johnson meets with Rebecca Vega during one of their mentoring sessions at Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri“I have signed on to be co-leader of Talk Story, Write Story’s mentoring program at Hickman High School next fall because I spent this year” as an alternate mentor “watching the scholarship writing project provide the opportunity of hope... I celebrate now with the students and mentors as results come in about college acceptance, financial aid and outright monetary awards. I know firsthand this cost-free program works. It’s not a Band-Aid, it’s a cure.” — LAURA WHITE ERDEL

“There was no question I would participate in Talk Story, Write Story. ... Hickman is an amazing high school with dedicated teachers and administrators. I knew from my own experiences that by treating a bright, enthusiastic, focused student like the person she is; pointing her in the right direction; cheering her on; and rushing to meet her at the finishing line would be an experience that I would not forget. My time with this student was a gift. I came away hopeful. The future is in good hands.” — AMY MCCOMBS

“She was an excellent pianist but gave up a future on the piano for her future in academics. She is driven to succeed in medicine and to make the world better. I consider it my honor to have been her mentor. I’m sure nine other mentors in this program could have written this.” — BILL CLARK

“Her story is strong because her story is her truth. Her story is her strength.” Her stories “came from a place she dared not look at, much less reveal to others. ... The process was about exploring whatever feelings and thoughts came to mind. Because those thoughts and feelings came from places deep inside her being.” — JAMES AND ANNELLE WHITT

“I learned that the most important answers came from how they felt personally and that their past experiences reflected greatly on what they wanted to be doing in the future. We also agreed that whatever she told me did not have to go into the answers if she felt it was too personal. I also explained to her that she needed not only to say what happened, but had to also give a personal experience to go along with it.”— ALAN BUNCH

“She started out wanting to outline each essay into a classic five-paragraph format, as if it were an English class assignment. I quickly discouraged that notion. These are called essays, I said, but we’re writing them like stories. We’re storytellers. I remember being excited each week to hear what story she’d tell me next. I couldn’t believe the number and variety of things she’d done in her young life.” — ERIK POTTER

“Working with” her “has been an enlightening, thoroughly inspiring process ... she caught on to storytelling that was powerful and effective. I approached her as a friend and a mentor, with the charge of learning her story and helping her translate it into the ... essays. ... I loved working with” her “and found her to be willing, self-aware, candid, reliable, respectful and committed. ... She was completely in the game.” — JEANNE ABBOTT

“In the beginning, saying yes to Talk Story, Write Story just felt right. Saying yes was a way of giving back to a world that had given me so much ... The biggest challenge” we “faced was staying on deadline. As the weeks went by, we fell more and more behind. I didn’t push ... because I had faith that she would write best when she worked at the pace most comfortable to her. Talk Story, Write Story showed me just how important it is for us to have that little bit of faith, that little bit of courage, that little bit of saying goodbye to your comfort zone to just say yes to something.” — BRETT JOHNSON

“It was a pleasure getting to know” her. “She’s someone I’ve really come to admire and care about.” — CATHY PICHT

“As we worked though the questions, I tried to motivate her to not allow her past to limit her from the immense possibilities life could provide her. I could see her perspective broadening as we worked through the questions. I also gained respect for her ability to disagree with me, hold on to her values and encourage me to fit myself into her tight schedule.” — GENE ROBERTSON


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