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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Sep 14, 2015

Diamante Ortiz: The High School GrandSLAM

by Diamante Ortiz

Hey there,  my name is Diamante Ortiz and I am a senior at The Young Women’s Leadership School of Brooklyn and I am a school storyteller thanks to the Moth Educational Program and I had the honor of presenting my story at the New York Public Library for the GrandSlam on June 5th, 2015.

The week preparing for the  GrandSlam week was utterly mind blowing. That Tuesday, I arrived to The Moth office in Soho and I met 9 other AMAZING, talented and all around terrific storytellers from all around the city from all  walks of life (not to mention different schools as well :).

Before the rehearsal started, it was a combination of anxiousness and awkward silence. No one really knew anyone except for Micaela and Catherine, the educational program managers, so Micaela tells us to take a “mental snapshot of this exact moment because by the end of rehearsal, it will dramatically change.” As open-minded as I tried to be, I was still skeptical because I was nervous if anyone would like me or if my story was good enough for the GrandSlam.

So during the rehearsal, 8 people go before me with phenomenal stories that made me feel a bit more comfortable and reassured that I actually had something to bring to the table. So I go up, and I say my story, and everyone actually likes it and one of the students identified because SHE used to have purple hair and Micaela and Catherine loved it so much. By the end of the rehearsal the awkward silence becomes non existent.

Friday rolls around, and I am running in the middle of Bryant Park trying to find 40th and 5th and I see Micaela next to the loading dock of the New York Public Library and we greet each other and make our way towards the Public Forum inside the library. Inside, I see the other storytellers and they all give me hugs and catch up with what has happened to me the past couple days and we talk about everything. We eat in the “Green Room” and play a warm up game and they tell us the order and I am first to say my story in the GrandSlam (I internally panic, but everyone yells out “don’t worry, we got your back!”).

After mic check, we begin to relax again and staff members started letting the audience enter the forum. A couple of the storytellers and I peeked our heads out to see who had arrived and then we all became anxious and nervous and I think it was safe to say that we all had the same question: “WHAT WERE WE THINKING?!”

There after, the host arrived and greeted us. The host just happened to be Hasan Minhaj from the Daily Show and he complimented me on my purple hair (this is the part where I fangirled a bit). Then we sat down in our reserved seats and Hasan created a cheerful and celebratory mood in the Grand Forum for the GrandSlam and introduced me and the crowd erupted in cheer (it was about 400+ people).

I say my story and the crowd’s faces are in awe, but in that moment, none of those faces mattered. All that mattered in that moment is looking at my mom’s face (unfortunately, her phone covered her face and she was taking 40 pictures as if it was prom and graduation combined into one). By the end of the story, I felt completely satisfied and still in shock that I was granted with this opportunity.  People cared about my story, they made me feel that I was valued. The rest of the night was wonderful and I gave out my first autograph after the end of the show! I took a picture with Hasan Minhaj and I hugged everyone. It felt like the end of an SNL episode, just without a saxophone playing in the background.

Thank you MOTH Educational Program!

Diamante Ortiz is a junior at The Young Women’s Leadership School in Bushwick, Brooklyn. When she is older, she hopes she can serve as a New York councilwoman and provide opportunities to underprivileged youth in New York City. In her free time, she enjoys playing the guitar and writing poetry and short stories and is glad to be a part of The Moth.

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