Ode is a storytelling series where community members tell true stories on stage to promote positive impact through empathy.

Ways to Connect

Stories must be true, about you and told in 8 minutes or less.

Pitch your story in 250 words or less, taking into account the “Essential Questions,” outlined below. Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis. All events are recorded for broadcast. You can listen to past stories at Follow updates at

Lorenzo Sandoval
Ally Karsyn

I am a Latino.

Like each of you, I have studied self. I have wanted to know: Who am I? What is the purpose of my life?

In my particular case, as I experienced the early phases of my life—as a boy, a college student, a young man—as I experienced these phases I found that much of my reflection on identity was grounded heavily in seeking the approval of other people… white people.

Why? Because I concluded early on that being a Latino in the United States was a problem. By virtue of being alive in this country, I was a problem.

Patti Strong
Ally Karsyn

I was laying in bed when something freaky happened that gave new meaning to “Radiohead.” Three years ago, after having my brain radiated twelve times to get rid of eleven cancerous spots that had taken up residency there, suddenly the clear, crisp sound of a radio turned on in my mind—no other voices, just one entire song after another. And I began singing along.

Tom Eakin
Ally Karsyn

It was just before midnight on the second day of Ranger School. I was crawling, nose-deep, through a slurry of red Georgia clay beneath a low-hanging web of barbed wire. The past 36 hours had been a blur of nonstop physical activity and every nerve ending, muscle fiber and bone in my body was screaming at me to quit.

And, I was starting to agree with them.

Jackie Paulson
Ally Karsyn


“She isn’t going to last much longer.”

“Jackie, call me back. I heard Nikki died last night.”

“Do you think now is the time to let him go?”

In about three years, three lives were lost and another three changed forever.

Brian McNaughton
Ally Karsyn

I got drunk for the first time at 14. I was at my oldest brother’s wedding reception. Nothing in our childhood or home life suggested I’d be susceptible to alcoholism. My mom refused to take communion when the church switched from grape juice to wine, and my dad would only have a drink if somebody insisted on buying him one. Even then, I never saw him empty the glass or have more than one in a year’s time.

Ally Karsyn
Sarah Fish

Wisps of smoke from smoldering South Dakota sage washed over my body and individually enveloped more than a dozen recovering alcoholics and drug addicts sitting around me. For the next hour in the Talking Circle, I listened to their triumphs and tribulations, occasionally jotting down a few notes since I was there on assignment. The leader of the group came up to me afterwards and said he wished I would have shared something.


Hugh Weber
Ally Karsyn

My story begins, as all good stories should, on the White House lawn – the Fourth of July in 2004. As you can imagine, it’s a pretty impressive, exhilarating and intimidating place to be. To your right, the cabinet secretaries. To your left, the president’s dog, Barney. This was the destination of a dream for a very unusual 8-year-old from Milbank, South Dakota, a pretty strange kid who set out to be President with the support of everyone around him – teachers, pastors, mayors and family.

Sometimes, when people hear my accent, they’ll ask where I’m from. It’s not an easy answer. The place I call home is East Jerusalem. I hold a travel document, not a passport, from Israel and a visa to be here. I am stateless. In the eyes of the government, I barely exist.

Ally Karsyn

When I was 14, I got a call from a man claiming to be my dad. I only knew one man to be my dad. He’s the one who raised me, who loved me. In every way, I was daddy’s little girl. With one call, everything changed.