By Nicolette van der Lee, Program Coordinator, Office of Continuing Education & Training, University of Hawai’i Maui College,

Here in Hawaii, the concept of “Talking Story” expresses the value of oral history and how storytelling is part of the fabric of daily life. Because we live over 3,000 miles from the mainland on remote islands, community means everything, and talking story is a way of staying connected to each other. People “talk story” to each other every day, whether in a casual chat or as a means of passing on a meaningful story.

As recipients of a $12 million TAACCCT Round 2 grant shared among a consortium of community colleges on the islands of Hawaii, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui, we wanted to figure out a way to “talk story” to connect with our community and beyond. Our goal was to share the stories of the positive outcomes and long-term impacts of these workforce development grants in Hawaii.

One of the stories our grant director prioritized was the impact of a $1.6 million infrastructure investment and capacity-building initiative spearheaded by the grant. This sounded like a pretty dry topic, and we felt challenged to figure out how to tell the story in a more compelling way than just showing images and describing materials.

In other words, “Why does it matter that we bought a lot of stuff? What was the value of this TAACCCT grant investment?”

Our team had a kickoff meeting to brainstorm how to tell the story. We used the StoryTelling Rubric developed by the StoryTelling Network to help us work through the process. We also used a roundtable-style approach where everyone’s ideas were welcomed and we could workshop through ideas until it felt right.

Starting with the rubric’s character component, we first discussed the question of what was the underlying problem that the “character” was facing. In the case of our infrastructure story, we focused on the concept that our students lacked effective student support services, equipment, and supportive learning environments. We realized that the value of the infrastructure investments was to provide our students and instructors with the resources, environments, and tools that would support effective teaching and learning.

One thing to note is that we had to continuously remind ourselves that the “grant” itself was not the character! Rather, the students and faculty experiencing the benefits of the infrastructure investment represented the potential for effective characters. We decided to interview students and faculty who had compelling stories to share, and we traveled among the community college campuses to capture the full scope of the investments.

We then worked through each component of the StoryTelling Rubric to generate ideas and develop solutions for how to build the story with effective characters in a three-act structure, with authenticity, action-oriented emotions, a “hook,” and a meaningful connection with the audience.

We decided to use video to tell the story so we could share the voices of the stakeholders, and viewers would be able to see, hear, and experience the value of the capacity-building investments as close to firsthand as possible. We leveraged the diverse skills of our team and created a multimedia studio that we could leave behind for the campus, supporting the sustainability of the grant initiatives.

During the final reporting period of the grant, we archived all of our reports on our campus website to support ongoing access to these stories. We hope that this online resource will provide other grantees with ideas and inspiration for how to effectively implement an impactful grant project that has meaningful outcomes for students, employers, and community:

University of Hawaii – Maui College student and U.S. Army veteran Trudy Cowen talks about veteran services in “Infrastructure – Leaving a Grant Legacy,” available at

We posted the final product of our infrastructure story as a YouTube video called "Leaving a Grant Legacy." Check it out to see how we were able to tell the tale of infrastructure investments in a more creative way than a typical grant report using interviews with our students and faculty and lots of great video of our campuses and environment captured throughout the life of the grant. This is a legacy we are proud to leave behind, and I am happy to report a year later that these programs continue to thrive. Aloha!