PORTLAND — The Telling Room, a literary arts education organization whose mission is to empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world, has announced the upcoming departure of current Executive Director Celine Kuhn in September of 2021.
The board of directors has launched a search for the next leader of The Telling Room in collaboration with the consulting firm Reflector Lab to facilitate the hiring process over the next several months.
“After five years of joy as The Telling Room’s executive director, I have come to the decision that it is time to step aside to spend time with my family and invite in a new leader for the organization in the fall of 2021,” says Kuhn, in a news release. “Being the Executive Director of The Telling Room has truly been the best professional experience of my life, and I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together. Working with these students and staff has filled my heart and soul. I cannot wait to see what comes next for The Telling Room, and I will always remain connected.”
“We are incredibly grateful for all that Celine has done for The Telling Room,” said Tim Schneider, president of The Telling Room’s Board of Directors. “We also deeply appreciate her thoughtful approach to this moment, and the care she’s taken with her communication, timing, and support in finding her successor,”“Her kindness, acumen, integrity, and authenticity have helped make The Telling Room what it is today. On behalf of the board of directors, we thank Celine for her deep commitment to The Telling Room’s work of empowering youth through writing, and sharing their voices with the world.”
Celine Kuhn first became involved in The Telling Room in 2009 as a parent of a Telling Room student. She then joined the board of directors in 2009, and stepped into the role of the executive director in the fall of 2016. Under Kuhn’s leadership, The Telling Room has expanded its programmatic reach, publications, and afterschool options for students across Maine while strengthening the organization’s structure and operations as a whole. Since Kuhn became the executive director in 2016, she has led The Telling Room through a successful strategic planning process, reimagined the organization’s signature annual fundraiser, facilitated a redesign of the website, and helped launch the Ambassadors program to ensure program alumni have a valued voice in The Telling Room’s decision-making and outreach. She also cultivated ongoing racial justice practices and antiracist work at The Telling Room, making workshops and learning opportunities accessible to staff, board, writing mentors, and volunteers.
“These investments in our programming and mission were possible because Celine presided over an extraordinary period of financial growth and stability at The Telling Room,” said Schneider. “Over the first two full years of her tenure alone, our total income grew by 40%, driven by revenue gains across the board. Under Celine’s leadership, we’ve seen our community of donors grow by 25%, our organization’s budget grow at a steady and stable pace of about 9% each year, and our overall contributed support increase by an average of 53%. All of this helps ensure we have the capacity to invest in our staff, strengthen our internal systems, and innovate to respond to our changing world, so that we can continue to be here for our students and our community for many years to come. ”
“Celine has been instrumental in expanding and refining our programming,” says Program Director Nick Whiston. “Under her leadership, and thanks to her vision and tenacity, our programs have reached new heights and received national attention. Alongside that growth, Celine remains present for all our young people; you can frequently find her greeting students with her huge smile on a weekday afternoon as they enter our space.”
Programmatically, Kuhn has cultivated growth across the board by reaching young writers across Maine through co-creating the virtual Student Writers & Readers Meet program during the pandemic, expanding programming in the Midcoast region through strengthened relationships with schools, and restructuring afterschool programs such as Writers Block to include a wider range of young writers. The Telling Room has also expanded its community partnerships and collaborative projects with other nonprofit organizations throughout Kuhn’s tenure.
“I will be collaborating with the board to help find the very lucky and highly qualified individual who will become the new executive director of The Telling Room, and look forward to facilitating the transition so that the next leader is fully ensconced, supported, and ready to helm the ship before I leave,” says Kuhn. “Our search is already underway, and our hiring committee of staff, board, and alums are working alongside Reflector Lab to find our next leader who shares our passion for youth voices, youth writing, and youth publishing. I look forward to introducing them to our community later this year!”
The Telling Room is a Maine-based literary arts education nonprofit whose mission is to empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world. Focused on young writers ages 6 to 18, its ten different writing and publishing programs seek to build confidence, strengthen literacy skills, and provide real audiences for student writing. One of their newest publications, A New Land, is a collection of 30 poems by youth poets from The Telling Room’s programs over the past fifteen years and is introduced by Presidential Inaugural Poet Amanda Gorman. Earlier in 2021, former President Barack Obama dropped in for a Zoom visit with The Telling Room’s Young Writers & Leaders program, which received a prestigious National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in 2015 and was recognized as one of the top 12 youth arts and humanities programs in the nation.