In 1995, Pati Hernandez began developing the program that would become Telling My Story. It started as a project at the University Settlement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to teach literacy to Latin American women through theater.
She then took the program to the Newark Public Library, again to teach literacy. In Chiapas, Mexico, Pati worked with Fortaleza de la Mujer or Strength of the Mayan Woman (FOMMA) over a five-year period, using the program to empower Mayan women.
In 1999, Pati relocated to Vermont and began using the Telling My Story approach to empower populations behind visible and invisible social walls — inmates, people on parole, patients at a rehabilitation facility, and survivors of domestic violence.
In 2008, Telling My Story became a nonprofit organization (a 501c3) and established a dedicated and talented Board of Directors.
In the beginning, Pati worked on particular issues with specific populations, such as welfare, literacy, or incarceration. Today, the organization has grown to encompass a broader analysis that includes people behinds all sorts of social walls and the ways in which linear, authoritative power structures are reified by these walls.
Over a decade of work the program has also come to believe in the centrality of voice in challenging and overcoming social stratification. Voice begins with the telling of personal life experience and builds an understanding of issues based on personal experience rather than statistics and stereotypes.