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The Daily Item

Classical senior steals the show at ‘story slam’

Originally Published on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 By Sarah Mupo / The Daily Item

LYNN — Lynn Classical High School senior Varvarra Valentin captured the top spot in a school “story slam” in December and went on to recently win the audience choice prize in a regional storytelling competition.

The 18-year-old student was the crowd favorite at the StoriesLive high school scholarship slam on April 28 in Boston and received a $500 scholarship. The event had juniors and seniors from area schools, such as Newburyport High School and Boston Latin Academy, compete against each other by grade level, telling three-minute, personal stories.

StoriesLive is the high school program of massmouth, a nonprofit that works to advance the art of storytelling by performance, digital media and education. This is the second school year in a row that massmouth members have come to Classical English classes to teach the students about storytelling and help put on a “story slam.” Winners from that competition then go on to the regional event.

Valentin said her story was a revision of the tale she told about her hair weave for the school contest. The story begins by talking about how much girls care about their appearance, she said, and then focuses on the different ways girls “rock” their hair. Valentin said she goes in-depth about her use of weaves before sharing a humorous anecdote about how her weave fell out at a step dance practice in Lynn.

“While we were doing the step, my hair came out. I was trying to avoid anyone from seeing it. I was doing the step and working my way down to pick it up. Someone saw it, and they made a big deal about it, trying to figure out whose was it,” she said.

Norah Dooley, massmouth executive director and StoriesLive program director, said Valentin’s story transformation since the school competition has been wonderful to see.

“When I heard it again, it was richer and better, and she was more in control of her material. She had better timing and spacing. It was very impressive,” she said.

Besides being nervous about performing first, Valentin said she was concerned the audience would not be able to relate to her story.

“I didn’t see anyone in the crowd that wears a weave. I was kind of scared,” she said. “But then after that, they understood and were laughing.”

Patty Frey, a Classical English teacher who went to the regional competition, said Valentin was a hit.

“She was worried and everything, and then she stole the whole audience. They went crazy,” she said.

Two other Classical students, Oscar Mercado and Jose Olivares, who were a winner and a runner-up, respectively, in the school contest, also told their stories at the regional event. At last year’s StoriesLive competition, Classical students won first place and audience choice, and $2,500 total in scholarship money.

Valentin’s $500 will go toward her education at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, where she will attend in the fall. She said she plans to study biology, but she also wants to find a way to use her storytelling skills.

“I have always been interested in poetry, so I’ll probably do a poetry slam,” Valentin said.

Sarah Mupo can be reached at

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Grand Prize for South Shore Grand Slam Story Slam generously donated by Nicolette Heavey and Stories In The Streets (A Maine Get Away)

Stories in the Streets in an outreach literacy program that focuses on families in at-risk areas and fosters community engagement in storytelling by: 1) Creating opportunities for public storytelling wherever families gather — a farmer’s market, laundromat, or food line; and, 2) Offering storytelling workshops that raise family engagement in literacy, cultural awareness and community understanding.  The program is currently active in Lawrence, Brockton and Randolph.


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