The Telling Room hires new executive director

Wed, 09/22/2021 - 7:30pm

PORTLAND — The Telling Room, a literary arts education organization whose mission is to empower youth through writing and share their voices with the world, welcomes Kristina M.J. Powell as its next executive director. Powell will succeed current Executive Director Celine Kuhn, who announced her planned fall 2021 departure in May.

“As the next leader of The Telling Room, I look forward to bringing my journey of identity formation and passion for the literary arts to this role,” says Kristina M.J. Powell, in a Telling Room news release. “Finding our voices and sharing our stories, asking questions, and listening to each other is how we can work collectively to create cultural shifts while celebrating the diversity of experiences and perspectives that strengthens our communities.”

“We are thrilled to have successfully concluded our hiring search and to welcome Kristina M.J. Powell as the next Executive Director of The Telling Room,” says Board President Anya Endsley. “In Kristina we have found an authentic and dynamic leader who brings a wealth of experience working in nonprofits focused on youth and in educational settings. We look forward to embarking into The Telling Room’s next phase of growth with Kristina as we engage with existing and new community partners and advance our diversity, equity and inclusion work while expanding access to opportunities for students across Maine. On behalf of myself and the entire Board of Directors, I want to extend Kristina a warm welcome to The Telling Room and our community — we are so excited to begin our work together.”

Executive Director Kristina M.J. Powell joins The Telling Room having dedicated her career to community building, Maine-based nonprofits. She graduated from Bowdoin College with her BA in Anthropology, which included a semester abroad with the School for International Training in the Tibetan Studies program. For seven years she worked in admissions & enrollment at the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), building relationships with colleges and universities both domestic and abroad, later co-managing the study abroad advising department. At Bates College, she served as Associate Director developing and implementing new programs for underrepresented alumni, students, and their families.

Powell later managed the development team at The Center for Grieving Children, based in Portland. In June 2021 she received her MBA while serving as the Director of The Berwick Fund at Berwick Academy, a PreK-Grade 12 independent school located in South Berwick.

“I want to extend tremendous gratitude to our hiring committee, which included staff, board, and Telling Room alumni in the decision-making process each step of the way,” adds Anya Endsley.  “The search process was thoughtful and rigorous; grounded in equity, centered in our community values, and guided by our collective vision for the future of The Telling Room.”

Telling Room Lead Teacher Marjolaine Whittlesey was a member of the committee guiding the expansive nationwide search alongside the consultant agency Reflector Lab.

“The past few months have been full of excitement and trepidation as The Telling Room prepares to say goodbye to Celine and welcome our next Executive Director,” says Whittlesey. “Throughout the search process, I was quickly struck by Kristina’s acuity in understanding The Telling Room and her curiosity in getting to know it deeper. I was impressed with her passion for stories, and her deep appreciation for the wider communities that we get to work with, including alumni and parents. We can’t wait to get started with Kristina and see what the next few years will bring to the Telling Room!”

In addition to Endsley and Whittlesey, the hiring committee also included current board members Chelsea H. B. DeLorme, Ekhlas Ahmed, former Board President Tim Schneider, staff Communications Manager Rylan Hynes, as well as Telling Room alumni Ambassadors Amanda Dettmann and Rachel Iradukunda. The Telling Room’s Ambassador program engages with former students and alums of the writing organization’s programs in strategic decision making, outreach, and leadership opportunities.

“We are overjoyed at the outcome of the executive director search, which engaged with Telling Room student alumni every step of the way throughout this decision making process. On behalf of the Telling Room staff and board, I am pleased to welcome Kristina M.J. Powell as the new executive director of The Telling Room,” says outgoing Executive Director Celine Kuhn. “She brings a wealth of knowledge, curiosity, humility, and kindness to the team, as well as years of experience working in the state of Maine. I look forward to bringing her on board over the next few weeks and introducing her to our community. I can't wait to see what the future holds for The Telling Room under her leadership.”

Celine Kuhn has served as The Telling Room’s Executive Director for five years after stepping into the role in 2016, following years of volunteer service to the organization. Throughout her tenure, overall contributed support to The Telling Room increased, programming expanded across the state, and the organization’s profile grew to a national level. 

“I am excited to build on The Telling Room's foundational strength of programs and steadfast community support, to deepen and grow the network of our community partners as we continue to uplift youth, empowering them to become curious and courageous leaders,” says Powell. “I look forward to deepening relationships with current partners and creating new connections as we grow the network of support for youth stories throughout the state of Maine. We know that change does not happen alone. Our relationships strengthen us, and working together is how we can actualize a systemic change.”


About The Telling Room: 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.