“My name is Eric Matthes. I’m a teacher at Pacific High School, and I’m also a board member of the Island Institute. I attended the Sitka Symposium in 2005. The theme was, “If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories.” It was about the power of the stories that we all have inside us. When I returned to teaching that fall, I started asking the students to tell their stories. Many of their stories centered around the role that alcohol played in their lives, and what happened after they got caught drinking. Most realized that they wanted to change their habits, and many made honest efforts to find something better to do. As we listed to more and more stories, we started to recognize a common element. As students were trying to move on from their history with alcohol, they found that having their names printed in the paper kept them from moving forward. They applied to jobs, and were rejected because people knew they were caught drinking. They started noticing teachers treating them differently. Many were no longer allowed to hang out with friends who were sober, because parents were worried about the influence they might have on their kids. We decided to do something with our stories. We anonymized the stories so they were no longer about individuals and instead spoke for many people. We shared our stories with the staff of the Sitka Sentinel, and asked them to reconsider their policy of printing minor’s names in the paper for alcohol related offenses. The Sentinel staff took some time to consider what we had shared. They had never meant any harm in printing minors names. They thought they were doing a service by keeping the issue visible in the community. When they heard the overall impact on young people trying to make positive changes in their lives, they decided to no longer print minor’s names. They still wanted to keep the issue visible, so they changed the policy to print statements like, “a 16 year old was cited for minor consuming on Friday evening.” This is one of the lasting lessons of the work the Island Institute engages in: that if we share eachother’s stories on a regular basis, we can build the type of community we want to live in. “