Carsen Fessenden, Jacqueline Mooney, and the Power of Storytelling


On May 1st, several students from MHS participated in a storytelling fundraiser event that benefitted Relay for Life. These students included Carsen Fessenden and Jacqueline Mooney.

Fessenden explains, “Right before spring break, Mr. Ward approached all of us and asked if we’d like to be a part of the event. The group changed over the course of a month or two, but we met every week (sometimes a few times a week) to write, rehearse, and edit our speeches.” According to the students, Mr. Ward generally approaches students who he believes have a story to tell, and whose stories he thinks will provide an empowering and moving experience for those who hear the tales.

After a couple months of practice and fun meeting to go over their presentations, the students finally presented their finalized vocal stories to those in attendance at the event.

“The event consists of speakers who talk about their life stories and different adversity they have faced,” Mooney describes, going on to say how the purpose of the event is to allow students to speak out about a life event that is important to them and to, hopefully, touch the hearts of those listening who may have shared in a similar experience.

Of the experience of being a part of this storytelling evening, Fessenden explains, “When Mr. Ward asked me to speak, I wasn’t really sure what impact my story could actually have, but the more we rehearsed the more I saw how much change I could create, and hopefully inspire other people […] I know for myself, I was able to talk about my dad, which is something that I don’t often get to do.” Fessenden also cites learning more about fellow classmates, making new friends, and practicing public speaking skills as some of the other benefits gained from participating in this event. Fessenden adds, “This was definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at Mendham, and it will definitely be one of the most defining experiences of my high school career. I’m graduating this year, but I’m so glad that I was able to have this experience before I left.”

Mooney, who spoke on the topic of divorce and mental health, subjects which many fellow students can highly relate to, explains her reasons for being a part of the event by saying, “I wanted to let the people in the audience know that they are not alone. I want to serve as an individual who people feel comfortable talking to and speak out about topics that are not addressed as much as they should be.” She goes on to add that being a part of this unique experience was definitely the highlight of her senior year, and that being able to share her own story while hearing those of others and forging strong relationships with the other participants was amazing. Mooney also says that one of her biggest takeaways from the evening was seeing all the students show their support for one another. “What I found interesting,” she says, “is there are so many teens I have spent everyday in high school with, yet until the Power of Storytelling, they realized how much they did not know about me and what I’ve been through. Power of Storytelling helps people come together, even when it was the least expected.” According to Mooney, though, “The biggest benefit was seeing how many people I was able to touch immediately after the event. I had a completely unexpected amount of people come up to me, crying, telling me how happy and proud they were of me. This type of serious support and love is not something every student is able to receive every day from their peers. I am so grateful all of the work the other storytellers and I put into our work was recognized by the audience!”

All of the students who participated in this event encouraged other to both attend and, if ever asked to participate through sharing their own story, not pass up the opportunity. The event is an incredibly powerful experience, and the proceeds benefit a wonderful cause, and participating in this is an amazing opportunity for helping both oneself as well as others.