Tell Your Story forum features tales of inspiration, social rise
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 28, 2013 00:02
Tell Your Story hosts a leadership conference every spring that features three speakers with various backgrounds. The objective of this one-night forum is for the speakers’ stories of overcoming adversity to inspire and empower others to recognize their passions.
“Our target audience is anyone,” said Wilson Gillespie, a sophomore economics major and a host for Tell Your Story. “But on a smaller scale, we need to serve the individuals who are following the mundane path of life without a hint of self-awareness.”
Gillespie said he firmly believes that the worst thing you can do in life is settle, a message that will be reflected in the speakers’ narratives.
People often assume that Tell Your Story is an open-mic night where people get up and talk. But that’s not what the forum is at all.
“Students get to hear from three professionals who have taken a dream and turned it into a reality,” said Travis Welwood, a senior Business and Spanish major and co-director of the Tell Your Story Leadership forum.
What is unique about the speakers is that their message doesn’t center around the traditional idea of success — they focus on how to pursue something that you truly love to wake up and do every day.
“Our capabilities have been so belittled by a global deception of what you are allowed to do, but each speaker defies this parochial standard,” Gillespie said. “People need to know there is no right or wrong way to pursue your passions, but the only common denominator … is a raw drive to attain whatever that is.”
The professionals who will speak at the event will share their personal stories of radical transition from one way of life to another. Welwood said this year’s cast of speakers is the most diverse yet.
“We have an entrepreneur and philanthropist, an astrophysicist and inventor, and an actor and international model,” Welwood said.
Will Gruver went from washing dishes at a Chinese restaurant to being the CEO and co-founder of USP&E Global, an international power-plant management company. Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi went from growing up in the New Orleans projects to collaborating on a Nobel Prize-winning Supernova Cosmology Project. And Adam Senn went from a life in small-town Texas to acting and modeling in New York City.
“We are hoping to inspire all students to achieve the highest goals they can set for themselves, and ultimately, impact the world for the better,” said Jenni DiDonato, a junior marketing major and co-executive of speakers for Tell Your Story.
Last year over 1400 people attended the forum, and Welwood says they aim to fill Rudder Auditorium this year.
“While this is only our fourth-annual forum, Tell Your Story has an incredible capacity for growth and impact in the future,” DiDonato said.
This year, the Tell Your Story team has 40 members — 12 on executive staff and 28 in the host program.
Now a junior, DiDonato joined Tell Your Story as a freshman in 2010.
“At the time, I was not involved on campus and I was struggling to find my place at Texas A&M,” DiDonato said. “I had no idea what Tell Your Story represented, nor did I anticipate the profound impact the mission statement and members would have on my personal development over the next few years.”
Apart from the conference itself, the there is a unique camaraderie among members of the Tell Your Story team. DiDonato said that through the experience of making the forum happen, she has formed a network of close-knit friends.
Part of what the Tell Your Story team does is generates offbeat ways to advertise the event to students. You may have seen the trademark “T” around campus, which Tell Your Story has been carving into pumpkins and hanging on Christmas wreaths since the fall.
“Easily the most rewarding part of Tell Your Story is responses from the audience post-forum,” Gillespie said. “Seeing people’s reactions to hearing tangible anecdotes of following their passions has so many cool outcomes, whether it is a change of major or realization they can go after that career they’ve always dreamt of.”