Ignite @ ASU sets hearts ablaze during its storytelling events

Lighting the fires of public speaking within its students, Ignite @ ASU empowers voices to tell their stories

In a world filled with an infinite number of variations, combinations and classifications it’s enough to make anyone step back and take a vacation. However, as crazy as the world can be in size, scope and variety, it only means that there are an infinite number of stories to be told and it is the mission of Changemaker Central’s event to hear as many of ASU’s stories as it can.

Changemaker’s Ignite @ ASU is like the Ted Talk of ASU, except its subject matter is much more personal. It focuses on taking the voices and personal stories of the university’s vast student body and turning them into stories to be shared with their peers.

The event, which happens once every semester, features an array of rapid-fire stories from several ASU students who apply and are accepted to speak.

“It’s really a great place with an open environment,” Joley Hamilton, speaker preparation coordinator with Ignite, says. “One thing I really enjoy about Ignite is that during the intermission the speakers are really able to connect with the audience.”

Hamilton says that the wide range of speakers and genres leads to really unique experiences.

“Each Ignite has its own personality a lot of the time,” Hamilton says. “There’s a lot about home and identity. There are a lot of talks about their identities and nationalities and religions … Just a lot about people’s identities and how they represent that every day of their lives.”

All walks of ASU life can come into the Ignite ASU program and apply. The stories that come from it include words of wisdom from the speakers who have lived through their stories and seek to make a positive change from them.

Katie Hawkins, sophomore digital culture major and current graphic designer for Changemaker and the Ignite ASU event, was a speaker before deciding to help the program out.

“I originally heard about the program from a couple friends who did it in the spring and I had done a couple poetry slams previously,” Hawkins says. “I thought it would be a really cool opportunity just to open up and kind of explore my own limits and ... what I could dig up from the depths of my soul.”

The topic Hawkins chose to share at Ignite ASU she says “wasn’t a fun topic” but it was important to share not only for the community, but also for herself.

“I shared my experience with being sexually assaulted freshman year,” Hawkins says. “It’s definitely not a fun topic, but I think giving a voice to it is a good first step into accepting what happened and making the best out of what, you know – to put very bluntly – is a really s*** experience that unfortunately a lot of people have to deal with.”

She says having this outlet, which allowed her the freedom to speak about her experience, was the driving force behind her participation in the event.

Thinking back to the moment of being on stage, relaying her story to hundreds of people, she lets out a sigh before explaining that it was the moment before being on stage that made her the most nervous.

“When I was actually talking it went by so fast,” she says. “To be honest, I don’t really remember that much about speaking, per say, but what I do remember is towards the middle of the speech I got absorbed in the moment and actually added more emotion in it. It’s the time it really connected to my brain that I was talking in front of 200 people and they are listening.”

Shantel Marekera, sophomore justice studies student and director of diversity and inclusion for Undergraduate Student Government, had a similar experience when she presented at Ignite.

“I felt powerful,” Marekera says. “I don’t know what it is, but when you are on that stage and then you see all those people looking at you, you’re like, ‘Okay, what am I doing here?’ But then you start telling your story and you feel so powerful. You feel like you’re in a position to impact the world.”

Her topic for the event was talking about how her experience being an extrovert when she was at home in Zimbabwe and then transitioning into an introvert when she came to ASU for school. However, it was these classifications, she says, that were holding her back.

This was the message she tried to bring to ASU students when sharing her story.

“As much as the world talks about open-mindedness and innovation, it still tries to put people in those boxes,” Marekera says. “A person can be anything at any time. Don’t let the world dim your light because of their expectations or because they expect you to act like this because you are this. Be who you want to be and decide your own narrative."

Hamilton says that it is this variety of stories and messages that Ignite ASU is all about.

“My number one thing [with Ignite] is that you never really realize the power of stories and what they do for our culture, for humanizing each other,” Hamilton says. “You don’t realize the power of your story and telling your own story. What that can do for others as well as yourself. Ignite is a safe space to do that.”

Reach the reporter at Owen.Baldner@asu.edu or follow @baldnerwin on Twitter.

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