When comedians and puppets perform stories written by kids, the smiles are contagious.
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Cricket Wireless

In the world of Story Pirates, it's not at all unusual to watch a play featuring a talking carrot on Saturn or flying cats.

That's because the playwrights may seem a bit unconventional: They're kids.

Story Pirates is an organization that pairs actors and comedians with stories written by young students. The results are fantastical productions that celebrate the power of imagination while also empowering kids for a lifetime.


Check out their story:

This group takes stories written by little kids and turns them into into theater. And the results will make you smile.

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Upworthy on Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Story Pirates is based on the belief that literacy and education aren't rooted just in ability, but also in self-expression and imagination.

And the results are real.

Founded in a single Harlem elementary school in 2004, Story Pirates has since traveled to schools across the United States to bring kids' stories to life on stage.

All images via Story Pirates/Cricket.

"Over and over again, we'll be in a classroom and teachers will come up to us and be like, 'Wow, this kid is often one of our most reluctant writers,'" executive producer Sam Reiff-Pasarew says. "But in the world of Story Pirates, where we sort of encourage them to use their imagination and be creative, it frees up some of those reluctant writers to become really enthusiastic writers."

This kids-first ethos is even rooted in the name Story Pirates itself.

"With Story Pirates, we wanted a name that sounded awesome to kids," CEO Benjamin Salka says. "We wanted it to be kids-centric. We wanted kids to hear the name Story Pirates and feel like rock stars were coming into their classrooms, not teachers."

And Story Pirates' productions feel a lot different from your typical school talent show.

That's because the organization connects schools with big-city producers, creatives, and improvisors who know how to put on a professional-level performance.  

And when the kids see their own words brought to life with big, thoughtful productions? That's when the magic happens.

"I'm so thrilled that I'm with them," says Amber Castillo, a young writer who participated in the program. "I felt, like, really positive for myself and my story."

Beyond encouraging students to write, it helps them understand that the things they produce are worthy, exciting, and unique.

"In addition to just being a celebration, it's really a validation of them," Kasru says. "The idea that these talented professional actors are, like, taking their work and treating it like it's an amazing theatrical text that we can make great art out of."

Anyone can relate to wishing to be understood and accepted when they're a kid. Story Pirates taps into that idea, specializing in giving kids the validation and confidence they deserve while also embracing a love of writing and learning.

"Story Pirates treats kids as creative peers," artistic director Lee Overtree says. "And I think everyone secretly remembers a little bit of what it’s like to be a kid and be in the world as a kid."

If you wish you had a program like this when you were a kid, check out the Story Pirates' donation page to get them into more schools or get your kid involved by submitting their own story.

Correction 6/26/2017: Sam's last name, Reiff-Pasarew, was incorrectly stated as Kasru.

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Shanda Lynn Poitra was born and raised on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in Belcourt, North Dakota. She lived there until she was 24 years old when she left for college at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.

"Unfortunately," she says, "I took my bad relationship with me. At the time, I didn't realize it was so bad, much less, abusive. Seeing and hearing about abusive relationships while growing up gave me the mentality that it was just a normal way of life."

Those college years away from home were difficult for a lot of reasons. She had three small children — two in diapers, one in elementary school — as well as a full-time University class schedule and a part-time job as a housekeeper.

"I wore many masks back then and clothing that would cover the bruises," she remembers. "Despite the darkness that I was living in, I was a great student; I knew that no matter what, I HAD to succeed. I knew there was more to my future than what I was living, so I kept working hard."

While searching for an elective class during this time, she came across a one-credit, 20-hour IMPACT self-defense class that could be done over a weekend. That single credit changed her life forever. It helped give her the confidence to leave her abusive relationship and inspired her to bring IMPACT classes to other Native women in her community.

I walked into class on a Friday thinking that I would simply learn how to handle a person trying to rob me, and I walked out on a Sunday evening with a voice so powerful that I could handle the most passive attacks to my being, along with physical attacks."

It didn't take long for her to notice the difference the class was making in her life.

"I was setting boundaries and people were either respecting them or not, but I was able to acknowledge who was worth keeping in my life and who wasn't," she says.

Following the class, she also joined a roller derby league where she met many other powerful women who inspired her — and during that summer, she found the courage to leave her abuser.

"As afraid as I was, I finally had the courage to report the abuse to legal authorities, and I had the support of friends and family who provided comfort for my children and I during this time," she says.

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If you listened to traditional news media (and sometimes social media), you'd begin to think the Internet and technology are bad for kids. Or kids are bad for technology. Here's a fascinating alternative idea.

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Norton

This article originally appeared on 03.31.15

Kids can innovate, create, and imagine in ways that are fresh and inspiring — when we "allow" them to do so, anyway. Despite the tendency for parents to freak out because their kids are spending more and more time with technology in schools, and the tendency for schools themselves to set extremely restrictive limits on the usage of such technology, there's a solid argument for letting them be free to imagine and then make it happen.

It's not a stretch to say the kids in this video are on the cutting edge. Some of the results he talks about in the video at the bottom are quite impressive.

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