We’re Following the Students!

January 26, 2018


Students at University Heights High School in the Bronx, NY…

N4 student leaders and facilitators at University Heights High School.
Photo credit: N4

“Facilitating a story exchange has been an enlightening experience because it has allowed me to watch the spread of empathy.” – Rokhaya Ba, UHHS student

It’s been a long, wonderful, winding road with students, educators and administrators at University Heights High School (UHHS) in the heart of the Bronx. This visionary school – beacon of hope and key N4 partner – has been hard at work helping us strengthen our methodology while testing our programming in a variety of ways over the past four years. In 2014 the students began exchanging stories with students at the nearby Ethical Culture Fieldston School. This was covered by the New York Times Magazine in a front-page magazine article: a rare and wonderful spotlight for our fledgling non-profit. After a while it wasn’t so much a case of rich school/poor school, as it was a case of young people collaborating with one another to change the world.The University Heights students are now taking story exchanges into their own hands and are building a three-year facilitator training program. This gradually turns incoming freshmen into N4 leaders by time they reach their junior year. The freshmen experience the exchange for the first time and from there the incredible stories begin to reverberate. The students go on to design and expand programming across the school. Together they look for ways to turn empathy into action.

Last week, third-year students facilitated a story exchange for 155 of their freshmen schoolmates – everyone involved felt the windows of the world being thrown open.

The UHHS model is one that can be replicated in the U.S. and abroad. We would love to work with you on bringing our work to your community! Contact us to learn more about the program.


See More of UHHS

Brené Brown on Empathy…
Brené Brown on Empathy video. Still shot: The RSA


We look forward to seeing Brené in person at the “Courage to Show Up” event in New York City on February 1st, thanks to our good friend and supporter Todd Underwood who invited us to be his guests. Todd participated in last year’s “gun awareness” story exchange in New York City with Carolyn Tuft; both were featured on the cover of New York magazine for a story and documentary that went on to win a National Magazine Award.

Take a moment to refresh your empathy knowledge with this video from The RSA and Brené Brown, professor and ‘vulnerability’ researcher. Then, watch Narrative 4’s video that asks YOU to answer the question, “What is empathy?”

“Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable.” – Brené Brown


“What is Empathy?”

Resident Assistants at Seton Hill University…
“Resident Life” staff at Seton Hill University use the story exchange
during spring training. 
Photo credit: Seton Hill

“Now that the exchange has become a part of the fabric of our campus leadership, it is exciting to think that the students are becoming our most influential advocates.”
-Christine Cusick, N4 Advisor and Master Practitioner Nominee

The Resident Life staff at Seton Hill University (near Pittsburg, PA) enthusiastically adopted the N4 method to jump-start some empathy building this semester. Seton Hill Professor and N4 Advisor Christine Cusick’s steadfast vision has led to the incorporation of N4 into her classroom and beyond. “The exchange offers students a chance to self-reflect and think about what it is that inspires and anchors them to be such leaders for our campus,” says Christine. “What do they hope to contribute to the lives of their peers through their living and learning communities? One of the students reflected that her job was to make the campus feel like ‘home’ for residents. The circle of the exchange was very much like being ‘home’ for one another.”

And that goes to the core of the N4 philosophy – stories and storytelling become a home for us. From there, we cross the threshold into the world of others.

Check out how Seton Hill professors used the story exchange in their musical theater and dance classes!