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Director's Notes

As the world slowed down this past year, the need to share our stories did not. Experiencing human interaction is critical in typical times, but as the isolation of quarantine took hold, having genuine connections felt like an essential need. Thanks to the trust of our school partners, the generosity of our donors, and the ingenuity of our creative team, we forged ahead with an online version of Stories that Soar! dubbed #StoriesThatStream. We saw the potential of stories and art to help bring dimension to our rather flat remote reality. While we all missed the in-person excitement of live shows, we were grateful that the Magic Box was there to allow us some much-needed laughs, adventures, personal perspectives, and more. We learned together while teaching the Baby Box. We stretched our sense of wonder with the Curiosity Box. Many stories spoke of resiliency and our ability to adapt as we shared ideas for staying happy and active at home. Through it all, the Magic Box also became a safe space to acknowledge our collective sense of worry, sadness, and frustration in this most uncertain time. As it is said, every cloud has a silver lining. While we did not choose the challenges of remote learning and life due to COVID, #StoriesThatStream ended up organically capturing this historic year without a single prompt. When people look back years from now, they will see that what we created together this pandemic year actually tells a much bigger story than any of us could have imagined. To the young writers, the actors and filmmakers, the teachers, and families, I thank you all for being part of this important journey.

With endless gratitude,

Sharon O’Brien, Artistic Director

Executive Director's Notes

For 19 years, Stories that Soar! has been bringing to life the stories of the youth in our community through creative stage performances. While this year’s stories may look a little different, there is no difference in the magic within them, and the positive impact they have on our community. The work done by the Stories that Soar! team and all of our school partners helps the students involved develop their love of writing and storytelling, which in turn helps all of us at Literacy Connects to reach our mission of connecting people of all ages to a world of opportunities through literacy and creative expression.

With this year’s celebration, we pay tribute to the creativity and resilience of the youth in our community, as well as to the ingenuity and flexibility of the Stories that Soar! team and ensemble. As the title says- there’s no stopping the magic, and nothing could get in the way of bringing these stories to life. We’re glad to welcome you, whether in person or virtually, to celebrate this year’s Best of Stories that Soar!

Matt Tarver-Wahlquist

Executive Director, Literacy Connects

Best of Stories that Soar! is dedicated to Jeanne Taylor

While our hearts grieve the loss of our friend Jeanne Taylor, we celebrate a life well lived. Jeanne was a longtime friend and supporter of Stories that Soar!, and an original board member of Literacy Connects. Her legacy can be seen in the vibrancy of our programs and the success of the other local nonprofits she supported. She happily hosted fundraisers and volunteered where needed. Jeanne's heart was so big that it often pushed tears of emotion from her sparkling eyes. May her spirit always soar.

Thank you to all the donors who have made contributions in Jeanne's memory.

Tonight's Stories

Part One

Opening Remarks

Sharon O'Brien, Literacy Connects Artistic Director

Dale's Story
Unicorn Sees a Show!
Art Class
Anaconda
The Lost Keys

by Victor, 3rd grade, Holaway Elementary

Two Best Friends

Part Two

Introduction to Part Two

Matt Tarver-Wahlquist, Literacy Connects Executive Director

Magic Cat
The Munchkin
Silly Man

by Minerva, 5th grade, Sam Hughes Elementary

Crazy Farm

by Bethel, 2nd grade, Cragin Elementary

Firefighters vs. Fire

by Omar, Nash Elementary

Magic Coins

by Ms. Hall's Class, 3rd grade, Ochoa Elementary

Part Three

Introduction to Part Three

Dallas Thomas, STS! Production Manager

Stuck at Home ABCs

by Isabel Smith, 5th grade, Sam Hughes Elementary

How Did COVID Begin?

by Isaac, 5th grade, Blenman Elementary

Depression of Two Kids

by Valentina, 5th grade, Robison Elementary

My Wish for the World

by Abdiel, Lucienne, Nora, Sebastian & Skylar, 3rd grade, Homer Davis Elementary

I Was Born in Syria

by Abdulrahman, 4th grade, Robison Elementary

Andrew the Rapper

by Andrew, 4th grade, Drexel Elementary

Part Four

Introduction to Part Four

Cecilia Abarca, STS! Arts Education Coordinator

Bullfrogs

by Izabella, 3rd grade, Drexel Elementary

Sisters VR

by Mia, 3rd grade, Cragin Elementary

Monsters are Scary
Shadow Queen

by Karma, 5th grade, Blenman Elementary

The Clock
Chicken Nuggets from Outer Space

by Rudy, 5th grade, Nash Elementary

Part Five

Introduction to Part Five

To-Ree'-Nee' Wolf, Artist, STS! Ensemble

STS! Behind-the-Scenes
Savannah the History Girl
Eyes

by Jaliyah, 6th grade, Homer Davis Elementary

Bird Kisses

by Paulina, 5th grade, Summit View Elementary

Zombies and Hearts

Zombies by Ryan, 1st grade, Prince Elementary

Hearts by Adrianna, 1st grade, Prince Elementary

Mike the Monster

Congratulations, authors!

Keep writing and using those imaginations! We'll see you next year!

Feed the Magic Box this Summer!

The Magic Box Story Portal

Feed the Magic Box this summer at The Magic Box Story Portal

Select stories will be turned into short films or radio stories for AZPM's Arizona Spotlight.

Listen to our most recent Arizona Spotlight story here.

Special Thanks

Without an idea a story is…NOT, but without support we wouldn’t have a program and for that, I extend my deepest gratitude to the donors and sponsors who make this mission a reality.

High-five to all the teachers and principals for riding the treacherous wave of 2020-21 with an unwavering commitment to the youth. We appreciate your trust that stories and art can be part of the solution.

Thank you to the staff at Literacy Connects for providing all the support and the space for us to do our magic. It is truly a team effort. Special shout out to Gina and Susan for their boots on the ground efforts to make this event smooth and shiny for everyone involved.

Confetti-filled joyous thanks to the incredible STS! creative team for taking such good care of the children’s stories at a time when tremendous sensitivity and creativity was needed. And thank you for sharing your families, your friend pods, and your pets so we could do what needed to be done!

Thank you to Kipp, Ruby, Eli and my ever-loving family, along with my dearest friends for keeping me grounded as my foundation was shaking this year. Your patience and love can be seen in our collective accomplishments.

And to Dallas Thomas, may gold-studded, shimmery stars of eternal grace rain upon you for your rock-solid role as my friend, co-creator, and master magician. Thank you for believing that anything is possible, and for having the skills and work ethic to make it happen.

With boundless gratitude,

Sharon O’Brien, Artistic Director

One More Thank You

The Stories that Soar! team would like to give a special thanks and a huge shout out to our fearless leader, Sharon O'Brien. Thank you for your leadership and for your trust in us, especially in this unprecedented year. We love you, Mama Sharon!

A Heartfelt Farewell

This year we say a heartfelt farewell to Barbara and Big Al O'Brien. Thank you both for your support and sharing your spirits with us. We'll see you in the cosmos, Nana Lorien.

Summer Camp at the Youth Center

Do you like acting, writing, editing, dancing, and/or animating, or know someone who does? Join the Youth Center Summer Camp! During this month-long camp, we will be exploring how to adapt your own stories into short films that will be featured on YouTube. Camp runs June 1 - July 1 and is FREE. Spots are still available for our afternoon online cohort- visit the link below to learn more and sign up.

Literacy Connects

About Literacy Connects

Literacy Connects is the premier literacy hub in Southern Arizona, providing transformational learning through joyous student-centered relationships and a strength-based approach. We serve learners across five programs: English Language Acquisition for Adults, Adult Basic Literacy, Reading Seed, Stories that Soar!, and Reach out and Read Southern Arizona. Our commitment to access and equity drives us to connect individuals across the community to work together for long-term social impact. We firmly believe that everyone deserves access to literacy and learning, and our classes are open to all, regardless of background or immigration status.

Learn more about our programs by clicking below!

Want even more fun? Follow us on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel to make sure you don't miss a thing! Hint- we'll be posting all of the Best of the Stories that Soar! videos online for your viewing pleasure.

Thank you to our Stories that Soar! funders!

Credits:

Created with an image by rosiekeystrokes - "watercolor background design"