Stories Shared at CCSU’s First Dear World Event

by Alonso Velasquez  

Students sharing important moments in their lives by writing a personal message on their body filled the Student Center last Thursday when Central Connecticut State University hosted their first Dear World event. 

Messages were written on students’ arms, foreheads or upper chests, then photographed and shared on social media, in conjunction with the organization’s efforts to share people’s stories. 

Katie Greenman of the Dear World organization was the photographer of the event and focused on telling participants’ stories through their images. 

Six students from CCSU who had had their portrait taken were brought forward by Greenman to speak about their own unique message. The students included Kaylah Gore, Shane Early, Shandra Witke, Kelly Turner, Grecia Zaldivar and Christopher Aquino.  

Their messages ranged from sexuality, bullying, estranged family relations and overcoming prejudices.  

Greenman talked about the organization’s roots and how they originated in Louisiana in 2009, as a way to improve people’s spirits after Hurricane Katrina.

Messages were initially meant to be light-hearted and a “love note to the city,” such as “Team New Orleans,” or “Creole food is the best.”  

However, one man took a different direction, writing “Cancer Free” on his lower neck, bringing to light how much more the project could mean.

Since then, the organization has traveled internationally, trying to facilitate and bring to light people’s untold stories.  

Through videos and other media, they have shared stories of hope from Syrian refugees to those affected by the Boston bombings.  

Those who helped run the event had to go through a two-hour training session in preparation; of those helpers were Simmi Miranda and Mehna Desai, of the Mosaic Center. 

“Last semester, during one of our Mosaic meetings, we were talking about how we wanted to bring all of CCSU together,” said Miranda. “We’re in the height of a lot of things going on. With the political season came a lot of tension, so what we wanted was some kind of way where students, faculty and staff could come talk to people, reflect in a safe environment and unite… Dear World had exactly what we wanted.” 

“Dear World is basically a project that consists of storytelling. It is a time to reflect about your individual story, something that makes you unique,” said Desai. “I feel like we’re not really focused on each other, we don’t really have time to talk about our stories. We usually just talk about usual things.”

A photoshoot was also held the day before, which was restricted to a select number of student leaders, students and faculty who were helping to carry out the following day’s event.