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First Voice Grand Slam a wonderful evening for storytelling

Kirsten Whitlow
First Voice Story Slam – Grand Slam Finalists (L to R): Miaa Brooks (3rd place winner); Shannon Cason (Guest Host); Shawn Townsel (2nd place winner); Chay Vepareddygari (honorable mention). Not pictured: First Place Winner Brittany White.

Phoenix Staff Writer

Brittany White was the big winner at the First Voice Grand Slam on Thursday, April 11, with the reworking of her story about when a wheel literally came off a car that came speeding down her street and a time when she was re-evaluating her life during the pandemic. The Grand Slam was the second part of the First Voice Story Slam competition open to Governors State University students to tell their stories around the theme “When the Wheels Came Off.”

The Grand Slam took place in the E-lounge of GovState and featured four of the finalists re-telling their stories from the First Voice Story Slam event on March 28. Storyteller Shannon Cason returned to host the Grand Slam by introducing the finalists plus reading short stories written by the audience.

Each of the finalists retold the stories they told as part of the First Voice event but with some coaching and reworking. At the end of the evening the judges voted on the winners of the Grand Slam.

White, who had to leave before event ended, was awarded 1st place. Shawn Townsel’s humorous story about attending his cousin’s gang funeral on the West Side on Chicago earned 2nd place. Last year’s 1st place winner, Miaa Brooks, came in 3rd place with her story on learning to ride a bike without training wheels and learning life lessons from her grandfather. Finally, Chaitanya “Chay” Vepareddygari won honorable mention for his story about the thrill of riding a scooter in India and the importance of knowing on to use the brakes.

The First Voice Story Slam is an event developed by Dr. Kerri Morris and Dr. Novia Pagone as part of the Media Across the Curriculum (MAC) section of the Center for Community Media (CCM). Morris and Pagone wanted a Moth-style storytelling competition at Governors State University. This is the fifth year of the event, and Pagone and Morris were very pleased with the number of storytellers who participated this year — 10 students at the March 28 event and 4 finalists. They hope First Voice will continue to attract GovState student storytellers in years to come.

GSU TV was at the Grand Slam covering the event and recording some of the stories. GSU TV’s coverage of the event should be in the May episode airing the May 8 at 8 p.m. on CAN TV19 or via the CAN TV App (for more about CAN TV go to or on the GSU TV YouTube page

First Voice Grand Slam winner Brittany White
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