Tony is a master’s student at the University of Toronto studying public health. He was part of a diverse team of Hart House student podcasters who gathered transformative stories from young people who had overcome personal challenges. A pilot project, the Hart House Podcast was a training ground for students to develop listening and interview skills allowing them to facilitate meaningful storytelling. The podcasts are available on iTunes.
“Hart House was one of the first places I visited during my first day on campus. As someone who really appreciates art, I liked how Hart House has that space for creativity. There’s art everywhere, especially in the courtyard. That’s probably my favourite part. Hart House is definitely one of my favourite places on campus because it has this sort of old-school vibe to it and I appreciate that feeling, that sense of beauty. So, when I was able to be involved [with Hart House as a podcaster], it was a really exciting opportunity.
“The podcast was a great opportunity to try something different. To blend my background and interests with the things I’m passionate about. We collected stories from students from diverse backgrounds and talked about a lot of different topics. Some were uplifting and happy moments, but it was also a chance for us to have some really difficult conversations. We collected stories every week. It was the first time that Hart House had a podcast program. We did a live show for people around the world to listen to.
“They were mostly stories about people finding a way to thrive. There were many conversations about healing from the trauma that comes from going through different kinds of intersecting oppression. At the same time, folks had a chance to be resilient. And we were able to celebrate those moments as well.
“I find that with my approach to storytelling, we always ended on a hope. And sometimes even when stories were difficult, folks would feel a lot freer by the end. That wasn’t always the case of course. Sometimes the conversation could be an emotional trigger, and that was totally valid.
“Sharing stories allowed me to be open and also to be vulnerable in listening to those stories and be touched by them—you’re being empathetic and compassionate and just holding space for those stories, and they moved me. I think that’s really important because I know there have been moments as a student when I felt really lonely. I felt like people didn’t care. But there are people who care. I think the podcast is a really powerful reminder for me of that sense of connection to the community.
“I remember being a first-year undergrad student and it being so intense. I think I would have loved to have had something like a podcast because it taps into a different kind of artistic, sort of creative expression. Being able to listen to other students talk about things in a way that feels comfortable, and knowing that they are thriving and that things will be okay! I think that’s a really powerful thing. I’m definitely grateful. Hopefully [the podcast] will help someone, or maybe it moves them in some way or just reminds them that there is a community out there.”