The Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC) is celebrating the second year of their program It Starts Now, which focuses on helping students share life stories.
Last year, nine students wrote and performed a play about overcoming bullying. This year the program returns with even more stories, expanding their submission requirements.
"Instead of it just being focused on bullying or any particular population, we thought everybody has a story," said Lindsey Davis, a graduate assistant for It Starts Now. "I think we all have those incredible, defining moments in our lives and we build a more accepting and understanding community when we listen to each other and talk about those stories that we have."
She said the program director felt students need to start sharing now in order to make their outlook better. Students who attend weekly meetings get the chance to talk about how their life is changing and who they are becoming in college.
"(This program is) about the students writing their own lives,” Davis said. “It's not about us telling them what to do, it's really giving them an opportunity to say'this is how I'm writing my own story.’ I think it's really empowering to tell a student 'no, you have a great story and we just want to hear it.’"
Members can also share their experiences in different mediums. It Starts Now organizes variety and art shows for those who like to express in ways other than writing. This can include artwork like painting, dance and song.
Nic Barnes, a graduate assistant at GIESORC, said the national It Gets Better campaign failed to change how students feel about themselves. Though the two programs are similar, It Starts Now takes the movement a step further.
"With Heidi starting this program here, it really got people to start talking and communicating their stories and events that happened in their lives," he said. "It Starts Now is almost like the communication starts now. It's a great response to a lot of issues."
Barnes also said the shows help open students’ eyes.
"Everyone has this gut-wrenching story," he said. "Now that the program is open to everybody's story and everybody's life and events, it's not just catered to one community. I think the more (the program) gets explained, the more people are really going to embrace the idea that you can take control of your life and make it what it's supposed to be."
Ally Hochanadel, a sophomore criminal justice and psychology major, said she has participated in the It Starts Now program for a year. For her at the start, the program was unique because it allowed her to tell her story and help others feel accepted.
"To be honest, I actually have healed quite a lot through It Starts Now," she said. "This was my saving grace. Being able to tell my story and be more comfortable with myself has saved me."
Hochanadel said the most important part of a program like It Starts Now is that students are offered the opportunity to feel secure - there is no judgment.
"Programs like these really are important to bring acceptance for people," she said. "These kinds of programs give a fight for equality, a fight for acceptance, a fight for safety. They let people know that they are not alone and they never will be."
Students can anonymously submit stories to the It Starts Now Tumblr website at www.itstartsnow-wsu.tumblr.com.
Students interested in It Starts Now can attend weekly meetings every Monday from 3-4 p.m. in CUB 406.