Being part of the HATCH Experience means cultivating meaningful relationships with game changers from all walks of life and fields of expertise. Given the depth of the relationships made through HATCH, connection can quickly be elevated to collaboration with your real life superhero – as was the case for Hatch NextGen’er Cole Janssen.
National Geographic-published photographer and senior at Bozeman High School, Cole decided to shift his focus from photography to spoken word storytelling after attending his first HATCH Big Sky Experience last year. As HATCH’s curating magic would have it, he found himself in the company of his storytelling idol, Vicki Rox, Moth StorySLAM winner and a contributing writer for VICE.
“At HATCH this year, there are people who have been to space and people who have been to the bottom of the ocean, but I fan-girled the hardest over you,” Cole relayed to Vicki the first evening. Vickie was genuinely surprised that she had risen through the star-studded ranks of other impressive HATCHers gathered at Moonlight Basin to be a NextGen’s highlight. She was also thrilled to know that her personal stories had created such a lasting impact on a high schooler and future storyteller.
Knowing that mentorship is a cornerstone of HATCH, Vicki found Cole the second night and made a powerful offer: “You inspire me. I want to mentor you.” She realized her experience as a world traveler who had connected with people across the globe through storytelling could be incredibly valuable to a young man forging a similar path.
Hours of conversations between the two began weaving the woof and warp of what promises to be a dynamic relationship. Cole explained to her how as a 14 year old boy, he would stay up all night listening to podcasts reveling in the way storytellers could aurally pluck him from the “vanilla bubble” in which he lived, and transport him to unfamiliar places and equally unexplored perspectives.
He recalls with a smile how Rox’s stories particularly resonated with him and have continued to do so. From under his covers listening with rapt attention, he couldn’t have imagined that a few years later they would be dialoguing at a lodge in Big Sky.
“Storytelling is the biggest vehicle we have for becoming aware of each other’s humanity,” said Janssen. “Hearing other people’s stories helped me understand my personal identity. Learning about things I didn’t know existed was a big part of my development. Her stories were hugely impactful at age 14, so meeting her was so meta.”
Connecting is one thing, but inspiring action through mentorship and collaboration is the key to facilitating positive change. “Cole has totally changed how I see mentoring,” Vicki says. “When I saw how receptive, curious and hungry he was, I wanted to do something. I told him to view college as an opportunity to see life’s bigger possibilities. And to go to NYC because it’s an accelerator to your career and personal growth.”
Relaying their conversation, Vicki’s eyes are wide and warm against the bright sunlight. Although plenty of good ideas formed from the heady conversations we have with newfound friends tend to fade quickly into busy lives, it’s clear that this mentor/mentee relationship is important to them both. Important enough enough to engender a new creative outlet whereby they can experience the storytelling journey together and share it with others. “He’s inspired me to start a video series called ‘Mentor Mondays’,” Vicki says. “Every week we talk for eight minutes and I can answer questions or offer advice on whatever comes up -and then share the episode across my platforms.”
“We talked about really committing to this relationship,” Cole reflects. “I felt like I was riding through a dream world. It was surreal. I’m in high school but this is something bigger, with substance- something good.”